On Openings…

           The opening line is by far the most important line of whatever it is you are writing. Paper, poem, or story, the opening line (or lines), are the most important words. It is your hook, thesis, opening eye-catcher. It is the first thing a reader sees when they open your book to see if it is something they want to read. A well-crafted opening line is like a magnificent bird, which swoops down and catches a reader in its talons, carries it up and down on the wings of whimsy through the story, and lets them down at a grand sweeping finish. Opening lines are some of the most memorable lines from books. “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” Mark Twain, A Tale of Two Cities. “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. “There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.” C.S. Lewis, Voyage of the Dawn Treader. And on one of my personal favorites, ‘I was leaning against the bar in a speakeasy on Fifty-second Street, waiting for Nora to finish her Christmas shopping, when a girl got up from the table where she had been sitting with three other people and came over to me.’ Dashiell Hammett, The Thin Man. Reading that first line of The Thin Man, you know you’re in for a true, good, old fashioned, mystery. You cannot spend too much time on the opening of your writing. Sometimes, you might be halfway through your book before you come up with the perfect opening. But it is well worth the hard work and the wait.

Do you have a favorite first line from a book?


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