Borrowed First Line

Borrowed First Line

By Michelle Lynn Senters

Where do good story ideas come from? EVERYWHERE! Writers find ideas for characters and stories from everyday life. Perhaps your sister creates an epic mess in the kitchen. Story idea. Perhaps you see two people having an argument while you are walking at the park. Story idea. Perhaps you see a tiny ant carrying a leaf to its home. Story idea.

And perhaps you read a story that has a perfect first line…
Can you borrow that first line to create a new story?
YES! In fact, that is exactly what we are going to do today.

Read the following first lines from published books. Do any inspire you to write?

  • “The sun did not shine, it was too wet to play, so we sat in the house all that cold, cold wet day.” The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss
  • “All children, except one, grow up.” Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie
  • “Where’s Papa going with that axe?” said Fern to her mother as they were setting the table for breakfast.” Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
  • “Once on a dark winter’s day, when the yellow fog hung so thick and heavy in the streets of London that the lamps were lighted and the shop windows blazed with gas as they do at night, an odd-looking little girl sat in a cab with her father and was driven rather slowly through the big thoroughfares.”
    A Little Princess, Frances Hodgson Burnett
  • “Flora Belle Buckman was in her room at her desk.” Flora & Ulysses by Kate
  • “Everybody knows the story of the Three Little Pigs. Or at least they think they do.” The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka
  • “Mr and Mrs Dursley, of number four Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.” Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, J. K. Rowling
  • “Marley was dead, to begin with.” A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens
  • “When I was a boy, I dreamed big dreams!” When I was a Boy… I dreamed. by Justin Matott
  • “Everyone was perfectly fine with the way things were.” Mr. Tiger Goes Wild by Peter Brown

Now, can you imagine a new story, using any of the first lines above? I’m imagining a story using “All children, except one, grow up” from Peter Pan. Instead of  a story about a flying boy and Tinker Bell in a land called Neverland, I’m imagining a story about a young child who has an imaginary friend. As the child grows up, the imaginary friend remains young within the child’s mind….  Hmmmm. I need to think more about this. It might be time to start writing a new story!

All children, except one, grow up. Imaginary friends remain young forever and such is the case with Percy….

Writing Prompt of the Day

1. PREPARATION: Choose a first-line from a book in your home or choose from one of the above. This line should inspire you to think of something new.

2. WRITING PROMPT: Borrow this first line to write a NEW short story. Use this line as YOUR first line, but be sure to change the characters and plot.

3. CHECK-IN: In the comment section below, share your first name, age, state, and country. Please share the “Borrowed First Line” you chose and include the book title and author.

headshot smallMichelle Lynn Senters is the Founder and Director of KIDS ARE WRITERS. She spends her days working as a teacher and spends her evenings writing books for children and adults. You can learn more about Michelle HERE and at

IMPORTANT: Students, NEVER reveal personal information while commenting. NO last names or contact information. I will delete any comments that contain personal information or comments that are inappropriate or off-topic.

3 thoughts on “Borrowed First Line

  1. Hi guys! My name is Naomi and I’m a 13 year old girl from South Carolina, USA. For my short story, I chose the opening line from the Cat and the Hat. “The sun did not shine, it was too wet to play, so we sat in the house all that cold, cold wet day.” The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss. Enjoy my story.
    The sun did not shine, it was too wet to play, so we sat in the house all that cold, cold wet day.
    “Why does it always rain on days that we have something fun planned?” my six year old sister Mary asked. I frowned, not answering because I honestly didn’t have a good answer. Infact, I was wondering the same thing.
    “We can still have fun.” I assured her, and myself. Both of our parents were at work and it was the first day of summer vacation.
    “Doing what?” she demanded. “I’m going to die of boredom!”Mary threw her arms up like she was fainting and collapsed into the stuffed arm chair.
    “Drama queen,” I muttered, angry at my parents for making me watch her all day and angry at her for not just reading a book. Seriously, what kind of parents make a thirteen year old watch a six year old and then take away said thirteen year old’s phone so she can’t even talk with her friends? “I’m going to go watch some TV. Don’t bother me.” Regardless of my angry words, Mary followed me into the den as I plopped onto the couch and turned the TV on to a cartoon. I usually don’t watch cartoons, but there was literally nothing else on at 11 in the morning.
    “Can I watch with you?” Mary pleads, perching on the couch next to me. From experience, I know she will keep asking if I don’t say yes.
    “Fine, just be quiet.”
    For three short, glorious minutes, there is silence. Then Mary picks something up and waves it in my face.
    “What is this? What is this?” she asks again and again until I take it and press the singular button on the square piece of plastic.
    Suddenly, everything is huge. Like seriously, everything is suddenly ten times bigger. Even Mary. She gasps as she sees me.
    “What happened?” I scream, but my voice comes out squeaky.
    “I- I don’t know! You’re tiny!” I shriek as I realize she’s right- everything isn’t bigger, I’m smaller!”How do we fix it?”
    Instead of answering, I run around the living room, looking for some way to get out of this situation.
    THERE! There’s another remote like the one that turned me tiny. I throw myself onto the huge button. In a flash of light, I’m normal sized again.
    Phew! I think I’ll take my normal and boring life from now on.

  2. I am David I live in MA and I am nine years old.

    “Where’s Papa going with that axe?” said Fern to her mother as they were setting the table for breakfast.”
    “He’s going to chop down some fire wood.” She replied. “The winter’s coming and we need to stay warm.” Just then a cold gush of wind swept through the house.
    “Brrr,” Fern said. “Where’s Jack?”
    “Out gathering wood with Papa,”
    “What?!” Fern exclaimed almost dropping a plate. “But I’m 3 years older than him!”
    “I know honey, but last year you tried it and you refused to wreck an animal’s habitat, just like the nature lover you are.”
    “Oh, right”
    They spent the next few minutes in silence. Then, the door opened and Papa walked in.
    “Papa!” Fern exclaimed, running over to him and hugging him.
    Then Jack walked in and Fern made a face. Jack returned the favor by showing Fern his face.
    “We got a lot of wood this year,” Papa said
    “Yeah, but I bet Jack didn’t help at all!” Fern said in a teasing voice.
    “Nuh-uh!” Jake replied, “I collected at least a fourth of the wood! But Fern was probably a lot of trouble, right Mama?”
    “Quiet now both of you or no eggs for breakfast!” Papa bellowed “ I’m certain Fern was no trouble at all, and Jake you were a big help.”
    “He started it!” Fern shouted.
    “What, no, she did!” said Jake.

    They ate their breakfast in silence. Well, almost at least. Everybody was almost done with their food when Jake said “I saw a frog eating flies in the forest.”
    “Jake, not a breakfast topic,”replied Mama
    “Oh but it’s true!” cut-in Papa, not thinking, “It was eating so many flies. It was crazy!”
    Mama kicked him.
    “Ouch!” he cried, but he stopped when he found out why she had kicked him. Fern was gone.
    “Whoops” Papa thought.

    Upstairs in her room, Fern was on her bed crying on her bed.
    “Why!?” she sobbed “Why must animals eat other animals?”
    “Because they survive on those animals.” said a familiar voice. It was
    Carolyn. Carolyn was Fern’s imaginary friend. Also Carolyn knew everything, except how to react to Fern’s feelings.
    “So why can’t they all eat plants?” said Fern.
    “Because they would run out of plants to eat.”Carolyn replied.
    “Oh, right”
    “What do you even eat anyway?” Carolyn asked.
    “But they grow in the ground”
    “Well I have to eat something”
    “Would you eat a hamburger?”
    “Go away”
    Just then there was a knock at the door, and Carolyn faded away.
    “Who is it?” Fern called.
    “It’s Jake” said Jake. “I just want to say I’m sorry,”
    “No you’re not,”
    “Yes I am,”
    “Prove it,”
    “Mom, Fern’s making this hard,”
    “Ha!” Fern exclaimed “Ma, told you to!”
    “No” Jake said nervously.

    To be continued…

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