I Poisoned Your Drink

American Book Review has listed the “100 Best First Lines from Novels,” and the usual suspects are there.

The most obvious, of course, is…

“Call me Ishmael,” from Melville’s Moby-Dick.

Here are a few you may have forgotten — or maybe you just missed ’em:

“It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.” (1984, George Orwell)

“Someone must have slandered Josef K., for one morning, without having done anything truly wrong, he was arrested.” (The Trial, Franz Kafka)

“It was a pleasure to burn.” (Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury)

“If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.” (The Catcher in the Rye, J. D. Salinger)

“All this happened, more or less.” (Slaughterhouse-Five, Kurt Vonnegut)

Few things give me as much pleasure as a great first line in a book. You know, one that grabs you by the castanets and just won’t let go. One so irresistible you just have to keep reading.

Here’s a recent favorite of mine, from Duane Swierczynski’s The Blonde

“I poisoned your drink.”

That’s a terrific first line. But I wanna share the whole passage with you.

“I poisoned your drink.”
“Excuse me?”
“You heard me.”
“Um, I don’t think I did.”
The blonde lifted her cosmopolitan. “Cheers.”

I dared my wife to read those few words and then push that novel aside.

I think she finished reading the book by dinnertime.

That’s the power of great first lines.

What’s your “first line”?

Or “tagline”?

I talked about this a few weeks ago, but it’s vital enough to hammer at again.

If you don’t have a punch line that effectively sums up what you’re about, why you can be trusted, and why people should deal with you, you’re probably missing big opportunities in both business and life generally.

Take 30 minutes, even a few days, to think about your perfect, great first line.

Then let me know what you’ve come up with.

Related Post:

Trading Punch Lines with Hit Girl

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