Saturday, August 3, 2013

Great Openings

What do you think makes a great opening for a book? For instance, was that a great blog beginning, a question for you to contemplate? Does that compel you to read on, or annoy you and make you stop?

When I searched “best opening lines in literature”, a string of traditional novels leapt out. “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” An amazing opening that goes on forever —a full paragraph, in fact—breaking all the rules of repetition and succinct attention grabbing. 

But is that rambling opening wonderful only because we know what comes after it? We are familiar now with the rich, complicated, character-driven, historical masterpiece behind that run-on sentence (either from the book or the movie). When A Tale of Two Cities was first released, I wonder if the opening served to pique the readers’ interest. Perhaps people thought the rambling was a bit much. Is the beautiful language in the opening responsible for the novel’s subsequent popularity? Or maybe we’ve paid attention to the beginning after the study of the incredible book.

Or, after looking at Charlie's picture, I'm wondering if the hair did it. Maybe I should get a different hair style?

Maybe this is a chicken and egg kind of debate. Maybe it doesn’t really matter.

For me, though, it’s interesting because of how my fifth novel developed. I got the opening sentence first. Although it went through a few permutations, it was a great line and I knew it. 

“I met Ethan on the day that I killed Karoline.” 

Such an admission, such a taunt, deserves follow-up, I think. It might not be filled with wisdom or historical significance, but it’s certainly a huge statement about what’s happening in the narrator’s life. My next challenge was to make Anne, the main protagonist, likeable. Once she admitted to being a murderer, where could I go from there? Is she a Dexter? Or is she suffering from guilt because of her best friend’s suicide and therefore feels responsible? 

Those are all the questions I hoped that first sentence would imply, lead to, or open up. Tell me if you think I nailed it - or not.

 Oh, and don't forget, we've got a party going on at my publisher's place, with tons of giveaways. Come on over and set a spell.

 Buy Sweet Karoline HERE.

Join the Summer Sizzle Party here.

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