There are any number of reasons why we choose the books that will land on our reading piles. Personally, I love first lines.
It Was a Dark and Stormy Night …
A great first line doesn’t guarantee that what follows will be a a great book, but it does make me optimistic. And although I’ve never actually bought a book because of an intriguing opening sentence, it helps. A lot. Because if I find myself intrigued by those very first words an author puts on the page, then I’m likely to read the first paragraph. Hum…still good? Okay, now I’m in for at least another couple pages, at which point I’m most often ready to make the commitment as to whether said book is coming home with me, or maybe going into my online shopping cart for later.
NOT SO SIMPLE
“We can’t believe the house is on fire.” That first line, from the novel, In Zanesville, caught my interest. (The second line is even better-It’s so embarassing first of all, and so dangerous second of all.) It was enough to get me reading further, and then to buy the book. For an author, that’s pretty much the plan.
Yes, you’re absolutely right, a genius opening line can go bad soon enough if the story falls apart at any point beyond that gorgeous First Line. But that’s a topic for another post. The focus here is the grand attempt to grow a beautiful garden from that first planted seed. It’s about a first line that catches attention and holds on. A line that at it’s best, intrigues, raises curiosity, sets a mood, or is just quirky or odd enough that it’s impossible to resist.
MAKE IT MEMORABLE
“Call me Ishmael,” sometimes we even know the first line better than the rest of the book. (Yes, yes, I know, something about a whale.) For a reader, that’s the stuff that will help you win at Trivial Pursuit, but for a writer the goal is more about creating a story and characters that are recalled long after the last page is turned. And a stellar opening, is or course, pretty much the place to get it all started.
A PEEK INTO YOUR NOTEBOOK
This is the opening of my debut novel: “Maybe it’s the raw brilliance of the pale white moon suspended in a hard black sky that somehow makes everything about this night feel harsher”. The Secret of Lies
This from my current WIP: Sometimes just looking at him breaks my heart.” Untiltled
Okay, your turn. What’da’ya got? Come on, lets see your stuff ! If not your own, than something from the tip of someone else’s pen that you just happen to love like crazy.