Saturday, July 27, 2013

First lines

Sorry to be so incommunicado. Both busy with work. It never ends.

Anyway, thought I'd stop by and post this link to an article about first lines-- authors tell their favorite first lines from other writers' books.

What do you say? What's the best first line you can remember, and why did it work for you?

And would you say we're too obsessed with first lines? I'm just asking because so many of us just agonize about the first line. I always find the last line the hardest to write. "And then they walked hand-in-hand into the sunset." No matter what, all my last lines kind of sound like that-- treacly, trying too hard to resolve.



Stacy McKitrick said...

Frankly, I don't pay attention to first lines so much. I may discover favorite lines WITHIN a book, but I never bought or discarded a book I was considering based on the first line. I save that judgment for the blurb and first few pages. If they grab me, then I'll read it.

Martina Boone said...

I don't think we're too obsessed! The first line really does,set up my expectations for the whole book. When I'm in the hands of a master, I know it immediately. :)

Kate Higgins said...

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way.

The first lines of "A Tale of Two Cities" This first line has always stayed with me. It's timeless and compelling.

Adrian said...

Yay, a new Edittorrent post!

I love a good first line, but they don't tend to stick in my memory. The closest I can come up with off the top of my head is one of Jonathan Kellerman's Alex Delaware mysteries, where I remember the gist of it, but not the actual quotation. Something about feeling like an adulterer when he starts a new relationship after getting out of a very long-term one.

This week I just read an excellent interview with William Gibson. At one point, the interviewer asked, "How do you begin a novel?" Gibson responded: "I have to write an opening sentence. I think with one exception I've never changed an opening sentence after a book was completed." I found that fascinating.

Alicia said...

Stacy, me too-- I think as long as the first line gets me to read the second line, that's good.

Martina, I think that's the key-- it's the sense of mastery, of the "authority" of the author: "This person knows what he/she is doing."

Kate, I love that whole book, but great first line, yes-- totally balanced, and it goes with the title, and then the duality of the LAST line: "It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known."

Adrian, that's a great interview! Gibson is such a pioneer in so many ways.
I asked my students their favorite first lines, and several mentioned King's great opening to The Gunslinger:
"The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed."
Ominous, and really capsulizes the whole series plot.

Anonymous said...

Like Stacy, first and last lines don't usually stick with me. That's not the case all the time, but most of the time, I just gloss over them. I love finding any lines that stick out to me, though, whether it be first, last, or number 250.

Charis said...