There’s nothing quite like setting the mood and atmosphere of your novel from the very first line. Here are my favorite ten gothic horror first sentences, from classics to contemporaries, that hooked me right away. It’s a great little exercise to use when reading over your own manuscript. Does your first sentence hook the reader? Does it give the reader a hint of what’s in store for them?
And, most importantly, does it make you want to read on?
1. “You will rejoice to hear that no disaster has accompanied the commencement of an enterprise which you have regarded with such evil forebodings.” –Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley
2. “The basement hallways in King’s College of Medical Research were dark, even in the daytime.” – The Madman’s Daughter, by Megan Shepard
3. “During the whole of a dull, dark, and soundless day in the autumn of the year, when the clouds hung oppressively low in the heavens, I had been passing alone, on horseback, through a singularly dreary tract of country, and at length found myself, as the shades of the evening drew on, within view of the melancholy House of Usher.”- The Fall of the House of Usher, by Edgar Allan Poe
4. “I stepped inside the railroad car, and three dozen pairs of eyes peered my way.”- In the Shadow of Blackbirds, by Cat Winters
5. “Mr. Utterson the lawyer was a man of a rugged countenance that was never lighted by a smile; cold, scanty and embarrassed in discourse; backward in sentiment; lean, long, dusty, dreary and yet somehow lovable.”- The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, by Robert Louis Stevenson
6. “The charcoal sky spits cold rain as we rumble to a stop at a crossroad.”- Masque of the Red Death, by Bethany Griffin
7. “The studio was filled with the rich odour of roses, and when the light summer wind stirred amidst the trees of the garden, there came through the open door the heavy scent of the lilac, or the more delicate perfume of the pink-flowering thorn.”- The Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde
8. “The boy was late.” – The Beautiful and the Cursed, by Page Morgan
9. “Jonathan Harker’s Journal
3 May. Bistritz.—Left Munich at 8:35 P.M., on 1st May, arriving at Vienna early next morning; should have arrived at 6:46, but train was an hour late.”- Dracula, by Bram Stoker
10. “Dead!” a woman screamed. “It’s the dead!”- Something Strange and Deadly, by Susan Dennard
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