Thursday, May 5, 2016

Call me Alan. (Or Art.)

by Alan

They say that the opening line is the most important sentence in a book. That may or may not be entirely accurate, but what are a few of your favorites and why?

I’m a big fan of great opening lines. As a reader, I love getting sucked into a compelling story from the get-go. As a writer, it’s a chance to make a bold first impression, and I work diligently to come up with killer opening lines for my books.

A perfect opening line can set the tone for the rest of the book, offer a hint about what’s to come, introduce a fascinating character’s voice, or spark a question in the mind of the reader (ideally, it should accomplish more than one of those things). Perhaps most importantly, a terrific opening line can hook that reader fast and hard, letting you reel him in during the rest of the book.

Some of my favorite ones include:

“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.” — A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens

“Call me Ishmael.” — Moby Dick, Herman Melville.

“It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.” — 1984, George Orwell

“Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” — Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy

“It was a pleasure to burn.” — Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury

“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.” — Rebecca, Daphne Du Maurier

“This was no time for play. This was no time for fun. This was no time for games. There was work to be done.” — The Cat in the Hat Comes Back, Dr. Seuss.

“The next to the last time I saw Tush Bannon alive was the very same day I had that new little boat running the way I wanted it to run, after about six weeks of futzing around with it.” — Pale Gray For Guilt, John D. MacDonald

“You may remember me. Think back. The summer of 1990. I know that’s a while ago, but the wire services picked up the story and I was in every newspaper in the country.” — The Lock Artist, Steve Hamilton

“The summer my father bought the bear, none of us was born—we weren’t even conceived: not Frank, the oldest; not Franny, the loudest; not me, the next; and not the youngest of us, Lilly and Egg.” — The Hotel New Hampshire, John Irving

“When Sean Devine and Jimmy Marcus were kids, their fathers worked together at the Coleman Candy plant and carried the stench of warm chocolate back home with them.” — Mystic River, Dennis Lehane.

And the favorite opening line(s) that I wrote:

“Never killed a cop before. Never had to.” — Ride-Along

Ride Along 450x720(In a stroke of pure lucky timing, RIDE-ALONG is in its FINAL Kindle Countdown Day. You can download it for only $1.99! Don’t you want to know what happens after that tantalizing first line?)



What about you? What are some of your favorite opening lines?


Paul D. Marks said...

All good openers, Alan. Especially that last one ;) . And hadn't thought about Hotel New Hampshire in a long time. Now I might have to re-read it.

TracyK said...

Ohhh! I like your first line! Nice one!

Sherry Harris said...

It was one hell of a night to throw away a baby -- In the Bleak Midwinter -- by Julia Spencer Fleming.

Alan Orloff said...

Thanks, Paul! Hotel New Hampshire is a kooky book, that's for sure.

Thanks, Tracy! I noticed we shared a few faves.

Good one, Sherry!

Catriona McPherson said...

I had forgotten The Hotel New Hampshire! But "Her gynaecologist recommended him to me" is still my favourite Irving opener.

Anonymous said...

"Scarlett O'Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it when caught by her charms as the Tarleton twins were." Margaret Mitchell, "Gone with the Wind." Incredible the epic narrative that flows from this sentence. Posted by Gerald Bartell

Kathy Reel said...

"As Gregor Samsa awoke from unsettling dreams one morning, he found himself transformed in his bed into a monstrous vermin." The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka

Shannon Baker said...

This is a paraphrase from the late Rick Hanson. If given a choice to wake Margot up or take a claw hammer to the head, choose the claw hammer every time.

Karen said...

One of my faves from a mystery: "The last time I saw Laurent Jammet, he was in Scott's store with a dead wolf over his shoulder." Stef Penney, The Tenderness of Wolves. And for a classic, from Austen's Pride and Prejudice: "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife." :)

Alan Orloff said...

More good ones!