I'm not going to tell you how to write opening lines. Everyone knows the opening needs to grab readers and hold their attention so I'm not going to lecture. Who am I to tell you how to write an opening line for your WIP? I'll tell you: I'm an unpublished nobody who's a little punch drunk because her beloved Red Sox managed to win two whole games in a row this weekend and in one of those games, her boy Jacoby Ellsbury hit a three run home run. Woo Hoo!
That's right. I said two whole games. In a row. That doubles the number of wins we've had so far this season. It's a mark of how badly the season's going so far if that's what makes me giddy.
The Red Sox don't actually have anything to do with me being an unpublished nobody (even if they are quite the distraction from April through October) but I just really wanted to mention that they won two whole games in a row. We're going to turn it around and we're going to win the World Series! This year is the year!
Again, I find myself digressing. But you should be used to that by now.
So what was I saying? Right...opening lines. The American Book Review published a list of their picks of the 100 Best First Lines from novels (also on their site they have a list of the Top 40 Bad Books and 100 Best Last Lines...check them out!). Some of their choices I expected. Some I'd never heard of. They included:
"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife." --Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice
And while it's also a truth universally acknowledged that I am in no way, shape or form a Jane Austen fan, I do like this line. They also included this classic opening:
"If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don't feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth."I --J.D. Salinger, The Catcher In The Rye
Again, not a book I was overly fond of (I know, sacrilege!) but an opening I definitely appreciate. The next quote I'm going to use comes from a book I've never heard of but this opening is just wild. Check it out:
"Ages ago, Alex, Allen and Alva arrived at Antibes, and Alva allowing all, allowing anyone, against Alex's admonition, against Allen's angry assertion: another African amusement . . . anyhow, as all argued, an awesome African army assembled and arduously advanced against an African anthill, assiduously annihilating ant after ant, and afterward, Alex astonishingly accuses Albert as also accepting Africa's antipodal ant annexation." --Walter Abish, Alphabetical Africa
I could just go on and on. After all, there are 97 other lines on this list. But don't worry. I'm not going to post the entire list here because that's way too much. But you can check out the entire list on your own here.
I do, however, want to bring up a couple of opening lines that didn't make their list. First and foremost is this one:
"Mr. and Mrs. Dursely, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much. They were the last people you'd expect to be involved in anything strange or mysterious, because they just didn't hold with such nonsense."
--J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
"This is my favorite book in all the world, though I have never read it." --William Goldman, The Princess Bride
And last, but not least, is this:
"There's a guy like me in every state and federal prison in America, I guess-- I'm the guy who can get it for you. Tailor-made cigarettes, a bag of reefer if you're partial to that, a bottle of brandy to celebrate your son or daughter's high school graduation, or almost anything else... within reason, that is. It wasn't always that way." --Stephen King, Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption
Great story. Great movie. I once had a very stubborn student who was very against reading. I gave him this story after learning how much he liked the movie and all of a sudden that kid was getting in trouble for reading in his other classes when he was supposed to be doing class work. I don't know what happened to him after he left our program but I hope he's doing well.
Before I go, I am going to take the opportunity to post the opening lines of my WIPs Effigy and Second Nature. I've worked pretty hard on them and I think they turned out all right. One group of my students read the opening to Effigy once. They read it out loud which was strange but kind of neat. The student who started the reading stopped after the first lines and looked up at me with wide eyes and said, "Whoa! MJ!" I think he meant it in a good way...
Darian Coileáin didn’t mind killing. The sound of a well made blade slicing through flesh and bone didn’t bother him. The blood he wore at the end of a battle washed away as easily as dirt gained from a day of plowing. When others vomited or sobbed over the atrocities they had seen or committed, Darian prepared for the next encounter. He never doubted it would come. King Nathan Maoilriain desired above all else to expand his already great demesne and Darian desired above all else to give his king what he wanted.
And Second Nature:
Death had come to Quatara. It came in the form of two twisted creatures silently slipping through the night cloaked forest. Their names were unknown to the inhabitants here as they were seldom seen in this land and any unfortunate enough to lay eyes upon them were never left in a condition to be able to tell others of the horror they had witnessed. Death was their singular talent and they had come to Quatara to once again practice their art. Someone would die before the dawn.