I hear an opening line…
In music, it’s called “the hook.” In the newspaper game, “the lede.” (Merriam-Webster, “In journalism, the lede refers to the introductory section of a news story that is intended to entice the reader to read the full story.”)
In creative writing, there’s really no term for it, other than “opening line.”
Yes (as we’ll see), sort of like the good old/bad old pickup line, as heard since bartenders were invented. But, just as “Did they give you a hall pass to get out of heaven, Angel?” is the sign of someone-trying-way-too-hard, a writer doesn’t always need to grab the reader by the throat, right off the bat.
Indeed, likely the most famous opener in novel history, "Call me Ishmael" -- is the literary equivalent of, “Hi, I’m Herm. What’s your name?”
(And, in debunking the very idea that this is the opening line of “Moby-Dick,” Ken Jennings points out, “Yes, Chapter 1 (‘Loomings’) of the novel begins with Ishmael introducing himself. But the so-called first chapter is more like the book's third, thanks to two rambling introductory chapters respectively titled ‘Etymology’ and ‘Extracts.’) https://www.woot.com/blog/post/the-debunker-does-moby-dick-begin-call-me-ishmael
In 1925, a novel came out that started, “In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since.” If you read that as a sort of literary flash-date, would you continue with dinner? If you thought, “Doesn’t sound like the most thrilling writer ever,” you would have missed out on a night with F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Gatsby and company.
Or if your blind-date writer cooed, “Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins.” -- would you have thought, “Pump the brakes, Vlad”?
Joseph Heller had a rather mundane “Catch-22” opener -- but it was so short he was able to quickly follow it up with something to knock you off balance, ready to enter his skewed world: “It was love at first sight. The first time Yossarian saw the chaplain he fell madly in love with him.”
On the short story side, it’s tough to beat Kafka: “One morning, when Gregor Samsa woke from troubled dreams, he found himself transformed in his bed into a horrible vermin.” (The last word is often translated as “cockroach,” or “bug.”)
The great Anton Chekhov eases into things: “It was said that a new person had appeared on the sea-front: a lady with a little dog.”; “In the course of the manoeuvres the N—— cavalry regiment halted for a night at the district town of K——.”
Similarly, Chekhov’s countryman Fyodor Dostoyevsky was in no hurry, in launching what was to become one of the world’s great novels: “On an exceptionally hot evening early in July a young man came out of the garret in which he lodged in S. Place and walked slowly, as though in hesitation, towards K. bridge.”
“What's the best opening line you've written (any form)?”
I was going to clarify it, then figured, “Naw, I’ll take the sarcasm.”
The ho-ho-ho comments came from guys:
David Wayne DePriest
Hi, my name is David
And -- brace yourself:
I'm gonna chase you down like a wild animal till you collapse from exhaustion.
You said best "pick up" line, right?
Others played it straight.
I'm somewhat proud of this one:
Dead people stink.
I mean, the living don’t always smell like sunshine and daisies either, but the dead smell particularly pungent.
Who or what is killing all the archeologists?
A. D. Stranik
‘She was dancing like a fascist.’
It was the epoch of judgement.
My knuckles are white.
Hell is hell.
Like all event doomed to be happening in darkness; the woman was standing there, beautiful, in a formal suit, holding an umbrella to protect herself against the rain.
Benny "The Baker" Farina was strapped to a chair bathed in hot, white light.
"The streets giveth and the streets taketh away. Blessed be His Name in the streets." I speak these words as I have a hundred times before, but today they tumble out of my mouth without thought or meaning...