For many writers—from kids to professionals—the first line of a story is often the hardest. When you’re staring at a blank page, how are you supposed to figure out where to start?
Stephen King, maybe the most prolific author of our age, told The Atlantic that he spends “weeks and months and even years” perfecting the words that begin each of his stories. They’re important—they set the tone and beckon to readers to keep going.
Luckily, there are ways to goose your imagination. To help make that blank page a little less scary, we’ve collected 10 opening sentences—each from something that has been published on Atlas Obscura—to serve as writing prompts. Where the rest of the story goes is up to you!
We’re challenging you, your friends, and your kids to use one of these first lines to write a short story. These are some of our most delightful, intriguing, and sometimes baffling opening lines, and we want to see you do with them. Your stories can take place in the real world or an alternate universe. They can be a few sentences or much, much longer. They can even have illustrations if that’s how you want to tell your story. The only rule is that they need to start with one of the lines below.
(And the stories they originally came from.)
Marimo might be the cutest plant on Earth.
(An Adorable Algae Ball Mystery Has Been Solved)
Just before nine on a drizzly, slate-colored Saturday morning, the grassy patches and paved paths around Central Park’s Turtle Pond were wild with activity.
(Squirrel Counting Is a Great Excuse to Explore Central Park)
It was a normal day at the lab for Dave Remsen—until one of the guests escaped from its room.
(The Woods Hole Lab Where Mysteries of the Deep Are Solved)
Have you ever traveled through time and foolishly forgotten your Pastport?
(The Echo Park Time Travel Mart)
Jean-Jacques Megel-Nuber didn’t always imagine he’d be living in his bookshop, but he knew he wanted it to move.
(What It’s Like to Build and Operate a Tiny Traveling Bookshop)
On the island of Tashirojima in the Miyagi Prefecture, the cats outnumber people, and the people like it that way.
In 1799, a reindeer farmer named Ossip Shumachov began a strange yearly ritual.
(This Terrible Mammoth Drawing Was a Giant Help to 19th-Century Naturalists)
In the Fishlake National Forest in Utah, a giant has lived quietly for the past 80,000 years.
(Pando, the Trembling Giant)
The maidens of Sparta spent long hours under the bright sun.
(The Swole Women of Sparta Wrestled, Danced, and Drank)
It’s said that not all who wander are lost, and that’s mostly true.
(The World’s Most Famous Ghost Ship Is an Enduring Symbol of Empire)