Throwback Thursday – Great opening lines from the 1950s

Written by: Haley Erb

Primary Source: Writing Rhetoric and American Cultures

It’s gotta POP. It’s gotta HOOK people. It’s gotta JUMP off the page.

There are about a zillion weird cliché phrases to express one simple idea: you’ve gotta start strong. An opening line sets the reader’s expectations in any genre or format, and these 1950s novels all offer opening lines worth aspiring towards: 13 Greatest Opening Lines from 1950s Novels

My personal favorites?

“There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.” – The Voyage of The Dawn Treader

I read the Chronicles of Narnia back when I was in elementary school, and back in the days where a name was to be judged by how badly you could get bullied for it… deserving a name like Eustace Clarence Scrubb meant a lot.

And, of course, from one of my favorite novels:

“It was a pleasure to burn.” – Fahrenheit 451

It’s hard to even explain what is so perfect about this line, but if I must – it’s short, visceral, and full of promise. A perfect formula to fuel reader curiosity.

So whether you’re writing “The Next Great American Novel” or a short blog post for work, remember at least one variation of this cliché, because you only get one chance at a first impression.

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Haley Erb
Haley Erb is a junior in the Professional Writing program. She also studies creative writing and the digital humanities. She is a pro-oxford comma and an excellent marshmallow roaster. Willing to ramble about typography, writing, design, food, science, books, space, or pretty much anything. She can be bribed with sour candy. Follow Haley on Twitter @haleys_comma.