“This is my favorite book in all the world, though I have never read it.”
“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.”
“Call me Ishmael.”
Whether it's William Goldman's The Princess Bride, Tolkien's The Hobbit, or Herman Melville's Moby Dick, a great opening line can be just as memorable as the story of the book itself. But what happens when you, the writer, get stuck and can't decide how to start your masterpiece? It might not seem like a major issue, but this roadblock stands in the way of so many authors every day.
That's why a good first line generator tool can be helpful!
In this article, you will learn:
- What is a first line generator?
- What are the pros and cons of using a first line generator?
- Where to find some great first line generator tools
Let's do this!
Best First Line Generators
- Opening Line Generator from plot-generator.org.uk
- Random First Line Prompts from Writing Exercises.co.uk
- Writer's First Line Generator from Writersden.pantomimepony.co.uk
- Prompts/First Line Public Trello Board
What is a First Line Generator?
So, it's time to stop procrastinating and write your book. But for the love of you, you just can't figure out how to start–besides the book title. Maybe you've got all of your scenes planned out. And all those story arcs are connected flawlessly. Yet, how to start your book just alludes you.
Head over to a first line generator tool! These tools can come in very handy in providing just what you need to get the ball rolling.
They work very much like any other random generator except instead of providing a funky name, book title, or random number… It's an opening line. Some generators will just give you any random first line–which can be fun–or you can enter a general topic or a few keywords to get a better match.
Great First Line Generator Tools
Now that you know what first line generators can do, it's up to you to decide whether one is right for you. I've put together a list of generators that I'd recommend trying out!
This generator gives you a selection of first lines as soon as you enter the site. Some of these may seem a bit bland, but you can always click to get more. And some of them are very interesting. It's a handy little tool that I would use if I was looking for a quick one line writing prompt.
With this generator, you start by clicking the “generate a first line” button. My observations with this tool is that it doesn't necessarily give you a full first line. Often times it's just part of an opening sentence. And as odd as this might sound… I really like that. The tool doesn't give you a cookie cutter response, but more so a framework for you to build upon and create a great opening sentence.
When it comes to first line generation, this is one of the most complete generators out there. The suggestions it gives include dialogue, complete thoughts, quirky and wacky ideas, suspenseful notions, etc… I'd recommend clicking through a few. I guarantee it won't take long for one to jump right out at you and make you stop and think.
Sometimes the best generators are actual writers themselves. This public Trello board is another great place to get started for opening remarks and writing prompts in general. They tend to lean more towards the angsty side, but that's OK. A little drama always makes for a great read!
Pros for Using a First Line Generator
When it comes to actually using one of these tools, there are many benefits! Here are some of them:
Great for Short Stories and Writing Prompt Practice
One of the best ways to get better at writing is to actually write! That doesn't mean you need to plan out a full size novel every time though. Short stories and essays are great ways to get your writing time in without dedicating major resources. But what should you write about? You could always head over to Reddit's r/writingprompts and find a neat little blurb to get you started…OR you could use a first line generator. Sometimes all it takes is one unique sentence and you're ready to go!
They can help you set the tone and voice of your writing.
What is your writing style? Is it casual or formal? Short and direct or extremely descriptive? And what about if you write across multiple genres… Does your voice stay the same? These are important questions you need to ask yourself when you go about writing your book. And if you're unsure on how to answer them, a first line generator definitely can help. For example if your writing voice is somewhat quirky and direct, an opening line such as “They call me Aunt Maude, and I make the vinegar” could be a great starting point. BTW, I got that starting sentence from one of the tools I mentioned above. But for those with a more eloquent and formal style… That might not be a good example. Instead, set the tone of your voice with something like, “The old house, with its wildly overgrown garden, was silent and secretive as an aging tigress lying in wait.”
Crush Writer's Block
If you're an author who hasn't experienced writer's block at some point in time, please bottle up your secret and sell it to the open market. Writer's block can be the bane of many a good story. There's nothing more frustrating than when you sit down to write and the words just won't come out. Now matter how hard you try, the page remains blank and just tauntingly stares back. However, a first line generator can help solve that dilemma. Most of the time, all it takes is one good spark to get the fires of writing ignited.
Cons of Using a First Line Generator
While there are great benefits to using a beginning line tool, there are also a few cons that need to be considered.
Robotic Feel and Tone
Using a generator can be great! Some of the examples you'll receive will be interesting, engaging, and meaningful. However, others not so much. You may end up with some that just feel too robotic or automated. I mean after all, they did come from automated tools!
Prematurely choosing your opening line.
The first line of your book is no laughing matter–unless you're writing a silly story. In many cases, it takes time and thought to determine what first impression you want to give your readers. As a matter of fact, there are many authors out there who actually save their opening statement for the end of the writing process. So keep in mind that, after you write the piece, you may want to revisit your first sentence to make sure it still works and see if it can be improved upon.
Other Writing Generators to Consider
If you're looking for help with more than just the first sentence of your book, you're in luck.
But one of my favorite tools in this space is the Plot Generator my friends at Reedsy put together.
With one million plot combinations to inspire you, this tool will literally generate a random plot for whatever genre you choose. Simply pick between fantasy, romance, sci-fi, mystery, or drama — and click the “Generate” button. If you like the results, you can “Lock” and save them to nail your plot down. If you think you can do better, you can just generate another plot!
Very cool stuff.
The Bottom Line on First Line Generators
Alright, so here's my final opinion on first line generators…
I think they can be incredibly useful when used properly. They can help you escape from the doldrums of writer's block, and help to inspire the molding of the first line you ultimately choose. And when it comes to quick writing exercises, they really can't be beat. They allow your imagination to roam free and create things you never would've in the first place.
However, these are tools I wouldn't get too reliant on. Your first line is a crucial part of your book's anatomy. And many of these randomly generated sentences really lack the human element — the feeling and soul that goes into a quality piece of writing. And failing to make a proper first impression can put a bad taste in your readers' mouths and taint their entire reading experience. Also, you don't want to fall into a baited trap when it comes to your writing either. By perusing through too many of these automated sentences, it's more likely that your story concept and intuition will be skewed in a way that alters your original idea–and that can be a problem.
So, use these tools wisely and they can definitely help. But don't forget to rely on yourself when creating your masterpieces.