Frightening First Line Contest—2019

Autumn is the season of rustling leaves, a chill in the air, and, of course, Halloween.

In that spirit, we invite you to create the first line of a frightening story. Just the first line. But we want that first line to be so intriguing or chilling or scary that it makes our skin tingle and our nerves twitch.

Whoever writes the first line that best accomplishes this goal will receive a free Gotham class of his or her choosing (with the exception of a few premium classes).

You can actually use more than one sentence, but there is a limit of 31 words.

Like many writers, Stephen King works tirelessly on his first lines, saying, “My first sentences stick with me. They were a doorway I went through.”

As inspiration, here are some great first lines from frightening stories:

The seller of lightning rods arrived just ahead of the storm.
Something Wicked This Way Comes, Ray Bradbury
Whether the dreams brought on the fever or the fever brought on the dreams Walter Gilman did not know.
“The Dreams in the Witch House,” H.P. Lovecraft.
The terror that would not end for another 28 years, if it ever did, began so far as I can know or tell, with a boat made from a sheet of newspaper floating down a gutter swollen with rain.
It, Stephen King
I was sick—sick unto death with that long agony; and when they at length unbound me, and I was permitted to sit, I felt that my senses were leaving me.
“The Pit and Pendulum,” Edgar Allan Poe
When I think of my wife, I always think of her head.
Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn

The winner gets a free Gotham class of his or her choosing

Deadline: December 1, 2019, 11:59 pm Eastern Time

The Details:

  • Submit the first line (or lines) of a scary story.
  • Entry must consist of no more than 31 words. Longer entries will be disregarded.
  • Entries must be submitted online by 11:59 pm Eastern Time, December 1, 2019.
  • Only online entries will be accepted.
  • Entry is free. Limit one entry per person.
  • Entry must be original and unpublished.
  • Entries will be judged on originality, quality, spelling, and grammar.
  • Gotham will post the winning entry at
  • The winner will be notified by December 17, 2019.