This month we Quills are writing about some of our favorite book opening lines. This is more difficult than it may seem to be at first blush, as there are so many fascinating stories to choose from. Nevertheless ...
Let's see what Robin Lythgoe, author of As the Crow Flies, has for us this time around. Robin?
The internet is full of lists of “best first sentences.” That opening line garners a lot of attention. It has a lot of work to do! It’s got to set the mood and draw the reader in. No hemming and hawing, blushing, or flailing around for something to talk about. (So I would totally fail as an opening line…)
Luckily, writers can devote a little time to figuring out that all-important greeting before someone opens the door. Er… book. I’m going to skip past the Usual Suspects and head straight to my own shelves. Oh, the hand-rubbing and gleeful expressions! I love rummaging through my books and I’m in the mood for a little questionable book-sniffing. So I’m going to stick with physical copies this go-round, which is strictly unfair to the digital part of the collection, but who’s the boss? I’m the boss!
Let’s dive right into something a little terrifying…
For more, visit Robin's site at www.RobinLythgoe.com.
P.S. Broaddus, author of A Hero's Curse, always provides us with entertaining ideas. Unfortunately, he's out of commission for the moment, but I'll be sure to let you know when he returns ...
For more information, visit Parker at www.PSBroaddus.com.
And now, for my part.
I found this subject fun—and challenging, as there are so many great lines to choose from. In the end, I chose to go with a couple very well-known openings—followed by a lesser known line, namely (uh-oh, hear the self-promotion here!) one of my own. The reason for my last choice is that I worked very long and hard on the line, and in the end, am so thoroughly satisfied with it, that I’d like to share it with you (and, in truth, I can't think of a better time to do so).
Here is my first opening line.
I chose this line because it so completely captures the spirit of the early 19th century (1813, to be exact) in which the marvelous title, was published. Also, the line seems so far from the early 21st century thinking for the younger crowd, that I imagine it must tickle the fancy of contemporary readers of that age. You see, I find that today’s young often seem to favor living a single life. That said, the pendulum may be swinging once again, as some young ones are discovering that perhaps it is good to have a life mate with whom one can share duties, responsibilities, difficulties—and the celebrations, accomplishments, and joys, that come with a life lived fully. (Perhaps this is the consequence of the parents of these young ones finally coming to appreciate that they’d like a bit of their own independence back, which is easier to come by when their children choose someone with whom to spend their future … Maybe?)
For my second line, I’ve chosen what might well be the most famous opening line of all time. Yes, it is an oldie—but these mere 60 words say a great deal about what passed before the beginning of this story, as well as of what is to come in the next pages. So here is the opening for a marvelous reading (and one well worth your time I might add!) .
I’m profoundly interested in the history of the French revolution(s) and the vast differences between that history and the history of the U.S. revolution. Insofar as Dickens may have referenced the French history as a season of Darkness here, I think he was spot on.
Now, for my third opening line, which as I mentioned, is from one of my own stories. (For fun, I’m actually going to give you the first two sentences.) Here goes!
I watched in my imagination, the scene that played out with this opening, over months and even years. When it finally came time to write it, my fingers set out before me, the highlights of what I had seen. From there, I painstakingly reviewed, played with, and revised, the line, repeatedly. The process was a long one, but in the end, I believe the opening captures the flavor I sought. What do you think?
If I had not included my own line here as my third choice, I might well have included either of the following quotes, also from terrifically good stories.
Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.
Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show.
Finally, for the fun of it, I thought I’d share a couple opening lines for tales I’ve not read, but that I want to read because of these opening lines.
Once upon a time, there was a woman who discovered she had turned into the wrong person.
I begin with writing the first sentence—and trusting to Almighty God for the second.
Don't you want to know what comes next?
What do you think? What are your favorite opening lines?