Results of the Best First Sentence Contest for My Good Friends at Johnson Elementary
  • I recently had the pleasure of speaking to a group of conspicuously smart fifth-graders on the topic of literature. At the end our discussion, I proposed a Best First Sentence contest, which lasted five days and for which I received nearly 300 total entries(!)

    This was the prompt:

    Best first sentence for a novel about a brilliant astronomer who, one star-heavy summer night, alone in his mountaintop observatory and gazing at the universe through his state-of-the-art telescope, sees something so extraordinary that he knows right away his proof of it will forever change the world — and so he decides not to say anything about it after all.

     Rules and Guidelines:

    No outrageous run-ons.

    No minimum length requirement.

    Submit as many separate entries as you’d like.

    Leave your sentence(s) in the comments section below.

    The contest will be open for five days.

    Here, in no particular order, is my list of the fifty finalists, among which are the four I chose as the winners.

    Every one of the following sentences makes a beautiful opening, no matter the age of the reader or the writer.



    My heart was pounding, my palms were sweaty. 

    As the astronomer looks at the universe she sees that the planets were not orbiting the sun like they had been for billions of years. 

    I went to my telescope in a dark area and after a gaze, I said, “I don’t know.”

    Out of the billions of stars in the night sky, all of their light added up would not be as bright as this one. 

    With a flip of his hair, he dramatically strode across the sun room. 
    It felt like a hand gripped around my neck, slowly starting to tense.

    After a long time of dreaming about it, it became his reality. 

    Streets are black without lights, skies are black without stars. 

    Not bad, not good, there is no good or bad. 

    On the streets gazing upon the lights he wondered if he would ever shine as bright as that light post 

    Time is money, information is priceless, and life is prison.

    Pigs, you see them as cute pink animals; that is not what I see anymore. 

    The first night that I used my state-of-art telescope, my new glasses, and my new tent, that was the differences in the truth. 

    Myths, Dragons, and Robots. 

    If time stopped, what would you do? 

    That night I saw something in between the stars it looked like it was a blinking light but I knew it couldn’t be a star. 

    “I wonder if you looked close enough you could see people on the other side of the world, through the stars,” the astronomer said while looking intently through his telescope. 

    Have you ever wondered if there was a land of myths?

    There was a shine on the stars reflecting on the moon then all of a sudden it went dark. 

    Space is a metaphor for life, it’s purpose is unknown. 

    The skies, a peaceful palace, or a dark kingdom that sucks you into the night so you are never seen again, the skies. 

    What I saw that day changed my life, and I will never see the sky the same again. 

    If you find something that will change the world would you tell? 

    The stars glittered in the night sky. 

    “Remember me when I get lost in the dark.” 

    On a clear night I saw some sparkle out of the corner of my eye and wondered what it was. 

    The stars flashed and flickered in the night sky.

    “There was a bright flash and then the strange dark figure appeared.”

    I can read the stars but I can’t read real words. 

    I see all for whatever reason. 

    I AM GOD. 

    The metal telescope is cold as I move it around looking at the most beautiful thing of all; the stars. 

    She saw one word engraved in the stars through her telescope: HELP! 

    It was love at first sight. 

    Peering through the telescope my suprise suddendly turned to horror. 

    I am tired of looking at the stars. 

    The only thing his eyes were on was the flash in the moonlit sky.

    The only thing that he wanted was to be known, or to know everything.

    I have lived most of my life in sorrow ever since my mother died. 

    I woke up to a strange noise, a noise I’ve only heard once before. 

    They weren’t coming back. 

    What, exactly, is brilliance? 

    I tried to hide what I had seen, but it turned out to be harder than I had imagined. 

    I don’t think of myself as brilliant. 


    I felt as though something was going on, something strange. 

    I am a liar, but this is a true story. 

    Was I seeing things? 

    Why can’t I ask? 

    Through my telescope, I gazed at the velvet night sky sprinkled with glittering stars, not knowing this night was one that was going to change my life forever. 

    When I saw it zoom across the night sky– so faint that I would’ve missed it entirely if I had blinked– I decided this would be my first real secret.

    I saw it from the corner of my eye– the most beautiful thing I had ever seen– but nothing would ever stop me from keeping my discovery to myself. 

    It was too hard to say, without taking a lifetime to explain it. 

    The light sparked between the stars.


    And here are the winners:


    Fourth place: 

    What, exactly, is brilliance? 

    Third place: 

    The stars glittered in the night sky. 

    Second place: 

    Streets are black without lights, skies are black without stars. 


    With a flip of his hair, he dramatically strode across the sunroom. 


    May 23rd, 2017 | journalpulp | 2 Comments |

About The Author

I was born and raised in the San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado. I've worked as a short-order cook, construction laborer, crab fisherman, janitor, bartender, pedi-cab driver, copyeditor, and more. I've written and ghostwritten several published books and articles, but no matter where I've gone or what I've done to earn my living, there's always been literature and learning as the constant in my life.

2 Responses and Counting...

  • Leslie 05.23.2017

    So much fun.
    That’s a lot of sentences to read!
    Clever kiddos

  • A lot of sentences!

    But SO much fun. And you’re right: super-smart.

    Thank you for reading, and thank you for dropping by.

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