top of page

Random First Lines from Fiction: A Bookstore Game

For people who spend (possibly) too much time in bookstores, something (besides book buying) is bound to come from it. A recent trip found us randomly looking at first lines in fiction, a game inspired by one of our guest blog posts! Here's what we did.

We took turns pulling books entirely at random from the fiction section. These were books that we knew nothing about - completely arbitrary shelf pulls. We opened to page one and documented their opening lines. Take a look below to see what we gathered. Then, consider the following:

  • Can you match the opening line to the covers in the photos?

  • What do you think about this bunch of openers?

  • What strikes you as powerful or impactful? What makes you want to read on?

  • What don't you like?

  • If you had to rank them in order of attention-grabbing, how would you do it?

  • Does it make you stop and think about your own openers? It certainly did with ours.

The correct matches are shown after each line. Scroll down to the end of the post for answers.

Ten random opening lines

"A hill wet with brume of morning, one hawberry bush squalid with browning flowers." (1)

"My mother emigrated to Los Angeles as a young girl in the Depression." (2)

"After the End came the Beginning." (3)

"I have seen three pictures of the man." (4)

"Skye Demarest had ten minutes to decide whether to lie to her best friend." (5)

"The first sign was the smell of cocoa butter." (6)

"The bandits came again on Easter." (7)

"Ed Nicholls was in the creatives' room drinking coffee with Ronan when Sidney walked in." (8)

"The letter is there when I get home from work." (9)

"That's me in the black leather motorcycle jacket, fitted track pants, sunglasses, and snakeskin Pumas sitting against the wall in LAX quietly sobbing." (10)

We had so much fun with this exercise, we expect to do more of these in the future... be on the lookout for opening lines from other genres in blog posts to come!

In the meantime, share your favorite opening lines with us below! "An opening line should invite the reader into the story. It should say: listen. Come in here.

You want to know about this." - Stephen King

The answers!

  1. The Manningtree Witches by A. K. Blakemore

  2. Eve's Hollywood by Eve Babitz

  3. Severance by Ling Ma

  4. No Longer Human by Osamu Dazai

  5. Haven Point by Virginia Hume

  6. The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris

  7. Lapvona by Ottessa Moshfegh

  8. One Plus One by Jojo Moyes

  9. The Heatwave by Kate Riordan

  10. Bedlam: The Life & Mind of Earl Sedgwick by Bobby Spears Jr.

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page