Ah yes. I could have done a post about romance or love what with it being Valentine’s Day yesterday but I didn’t want to. So there.
I mean in a way it could link. Most romances start with a good opening line right? Or maybe even a pretty appalling opening line that somehow gets you intrigued anyway.
Let’s just apply the same principle to books shall we?
The opening line definitely gets a writer sweating.
Well, in the relationship between writer and reader this is the fisherman and fish moment. The reason why all those giving writing advice refer to the opening lines as ‘The Hook’ is because it’s what’s needed to reel the reader in (that would be you my little mackerel).
If the purpose of an opening line is to entice you in and keep you reading the story then what makes a good opening line?
This is where I hate those writing articles and advice pieces that say, ‘don’t do that; do this‘ when it comes to what’s a good opening line.
Yep. I’m playing the personal opinion trump card.
There are many blog posts from book bloggers about opening lines so I won’t be saying anything different that a trillion others have already said and there’s even a meme by Wandering Words called ‘First Lines Friday.’
In my book reviews I used to include a section with the opening lines just because I thought it helped convey the tone of the book. Maybe it did, maybe it didn’t. No one said anything either way.
Many posts I’ve seen about opening lines are the ones that people love the most. I haven’t often seen people post about opening lines they’ve found ‘meh’ because most people are decent and not whingers like me.
For a writer there’s so much riding on an opening line which may be a lot of undue pressure. I’ve read books with an awesome opening that is followed by a mediocre story. I’ve also read books that I’ve adored – once I’ve moved beyond their average opening.
One of my favorite trilogies of all time opens with something that the experts tell you not to open with – the main character waking up in bed.
If you think you can guess it – let me know in the comments 😉
So here here are some opening lines for you. I’ve included one I love, one I don’t, and one from a book that I haven’t read yet – just to see if I can guess where I think the story is going to go.
I actually don’t like The Catcher in the Rye as a story (sorry!) but you know what? I adore this opening.
Yes, I know that the opening sentence I use for ‘the one I don’t love’ (it’s below, you’ll see) has me complaining that it’s too-long (and technically this is also just one sentence) but nothing about this one feels laborious.
I might not have enjoyed the story but I can appreciate good writing and the skilled weaving of a character’s voice and boy, does this book have character voice.
What we immediately learn is that this tale is told from the perspective of a yet unnamed narrator. For me the Hook is getting my question of ‘who the heck is this speaking?!’ answered. Who is the speaker talking to? Why is he so jaded?
What I especially love about this opening is that we see a hint of foreshadowing of something which becomes quite apparent in the story – a touch of hypocrisy from our dear narrator.
They don’t want to ‘get into it’ they tell us, after having just spent their introduction doing exactly that.
Charlie, Charlie, Charlie….
I hate it.
I truly hate it. This has no ‘Hook’ for me.
I have actually thrown Mr. Dickens a bone and included another of his opening lines below which I actually love x3000.
I hate this particular opening because it is one entire sentence of comparisons listed out one after an another. I have never read A Tale of Two Cities because this opening sentence has put me off it that much.
This sentence? It was the most melodramatic of sentences, it was the most dull of sentences, it was the most lengthy of sentences, it was most vague of sentences, it was the most…
Ugh. I’m done.
I needed to throw Chuck a bone here because as much as I despise the opening for A Tale of Two Cities the opening for A Christmas Carol couldn’t be more perfect for me.
It’s short, it’s simple, and it’s filled to the brim with intrigue.
Not only does this make us ask who Marley is but dear goodness – ‘dead to begin with? dead to begin with?!”‘ I need to know why and how he died and exactly how that’s no longer applicable.
This is a tiny teeny minor cheat as I have seen the movie of Howl’s Moving Castle but I have heard that the book and movie deviate which means that while I won’t be going into the book entirely I still don’t think I’ll truly be able to predict what will happen.
Now I’m getting a hopeful vibe that I’ll like this one. From the opening sentence I already like the style of writing and I’m already set up that this is a fantasy set in (possibly?) strange lands where magic is already established.
The tone I get is that this story is a whimsical and light-hearted read but that drama for our main character is not too far away.
On a side note…. I’m the eldest of three so I guess it’s good that I’m not from Ingary.
What do you think about the quotes I have chosen? Am I on the money for my Howl’s Moving Castle predictions? Did anyone guess the book I referred to in the introduction?
Let me know your thoughts, feelings, hopes and dreams in the comments.
Stay tuned for March’s Conversations in a Coffee Shop which is yet TBC.