Wednesday, April 18, 2012

O is for Opening Lines

I think anyone who's written anything can explain about Opening Lines.

Every word in a book is important, of course. Every sentence has meaning, leads the action forward, represents a choice for the writer. But it's the Opening Line that is the Very Most Important in most of our cobwebby heads, isn't it?
The first page must be Great. The first Paragraph must be Outstanding.
But the Opening Line?... That must be Perfect.
I don't fault a book for taking a few sentences to get going. Hunger Games is quite like that. As long as that first sentence keeps you reading, it has done its job. There are plenty of places to go to read the "best opening lines ever" or some such, but here are some of my favorites from the current kidlit universe:

Strange things can happen at a crossroads.
 The Boneshaker, Kate Milford 

Later, while I was facing the Potter Moth, or fleeing for my life from the First Ones, ore helping man a cannon aboard Jack Havock's brig Sophronia, I would often think back to the way my life used to be, and to that last afternoon at Larklight, before all our misfortunes began.
Larklight, Philip Reeve 

If you are interested in stories with happy endings, you would be better off reading some other book.
The Bad Beginning, Lemony Snicket

Once upon a time, fairy tales were awesome.
 A Tale Dark and Grimm, Adam Gidwitz

Once upon a time, a girl named September grew very tired indeed of her parents' house, where she washed the same pink-and-yellow teacups and matching gravy boats every day, slept on the same embroidered pillow, and played with the same small and amiable dog.  
The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairlyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, Catherynne M. Valente 

I had just come to accept that my life would be ordinary when extraordinary things began to happen.          Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, Ransom Riggs

What I liked most about these is that they set the tone for the rest of the book.
What about you? Any favorite opening lines? For the writers among us, any first sentences that gave you fits, but turned out great in the end?


inluvwithwords said...

It's amazing how good some opening lines are. Recently, I remember really liking the opening of Anna and the French Kiss. Unfortunately, I don't own it, and it's been returned to the library so I can't share it here =(

mooderino said...

i htink the more I like a book the more I like the first line in retrospect.

new follower,
Moody Writing

MOV said...

Hello Lily Cate,

What a great post! I love opening lines, they set the tone for the whole book. I also like last lines, as they linger with you, like the taste of chocolate (or vomit if it was a bad book).

I think this is my new favorite blog! I will definitely be back to see what you dream up for the other letters, and to read more of your lovely writing. I am following now.

I am doing the A to Z Challenge as well. Take a peek at my blog too if you get a chance!


Lily Cate said...

Welcome new peeps! Can't wait to stop and visit you, too!

And inluv - I'll have to check that one out, too!

Sherry Gloag said...

A ggod first line catches your reader, a good last line give them a reason to buy your next book(s)! :-)