For those of you who don't know, Edward Bulwer-Lytton had a way with words. He coined the phrases "the pen is mightier than the sword" and "the great unwashed". He wrote The Last Days of Pompeii.*
He is probably most famous, though, for the first line in his novel, Paul Clifford:
It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents—except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.
Now isn't that proof that you can't win them all? You might write lines that linger in culture and novels that are still in libraries. Snoopy might plagiarize you!
And ... you might also write a first line so heinous that it spawns a contest where folks try to write equally heinous first lines.
First lines you should go read. Here. Now. And don't forget the grand prize winners from the past twenty-six years.
If you're feeling particularly cheerful, please come back and paste your favorite first line in the comments section.
*Facts lifted shamelessly from Wikipedia.)