Saturday, July 23, 2011

Beginning Lines and What They Can Do For a Story

We’ve all been told how important the beginning line is to our stories. I found a list of opening lines of well-known books. Would they be acceptable today? Some of them are quite well done, others…well, I am not so sure.

Writing and reading has changed so much over the years that I ponder what an editor or agent would have said to any of the authors of these classics. Opening lines have always been intriguing to me because I can’t write a decent one to save my life.

“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again” - Rebecca

“In an old house in Paris that was covered with vines lived twelve little girls in two straight lines.” - Madeline

“Call me Ishmael.” – Moby Dick

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.” – Pride and Prejudice

“Once upon a midnight dreary, as I pondered weak and weary” – The Raven

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” – A tale of two Cities

“Dorothy lived in the midst of the great Kansas prairies, with Uncle Henry, who was a farmer, and Aunt Em, who was the farmer's wife.” – The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

“He was an old man who fished alone in a skiff in the Gulf Stream and he had gone eighty-four days now without taking a fish.” – The Old Man of the Sea

“The cold passed reluctantly from the earth, and the retiring fogs revealed an army stretched out on the hills, resting.” – The Red Badge of Courage

Do you have any favorites? I have always loved the beginning to Rebecca and it calls me back to read the story yet again.


Joan Leacott said...

My favorite will always be the opener to P&P. Usually I don't pay too much attention to opening lines. But recently I read "Long ago and far away..." in a 2011 release. Talk about cliche alert! That book was immediately dumped in my give-away box.

Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

I agree, Joan, P&P's opening line always brings Colin Firth's face to my mind. I watched that movie so many times I think I had half of it memorized.

Thanks for stopping by and keeping me company today. :)

Mona Risk said...

Hi Paisley, How could I miss your post! First lines is a favorite subject of mine. I rewrite mines at least twenty times and I often evaluate a book on its first page.
Sorry I was late.

Dawn Marie Hamilron said...

Hi, Paisley. Interesting post. I like the witty first lines by Eloisa James. Here is two examples: "No one dressed to please a husband," from This Duchess of Mine. "Knowing precisely why no one wants to marry you is slim consolation for the truth of it," from Desperate Duchesses.

Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

I'm so glad you found me, Mona. I always have a rough time with beginning lines. I thought some of these were interesting but not too many really propelled you into the story.

Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

Hi Dawn, I love your two examples. I wish I could hire someone to write my opening lines... :(

Thanks for visiting with me.

Josie said...

I haven't opened the book in a long time, so without looking to be sure it's correct, I always loved the opening of "Gone with the Wind".

"Scarlett O'Hara was not beautiful".

Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

You have the first part, Josie. I looked it up - “Scarlett O’Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it.” You're right, that is a perfect line. Isn't it amazing that Margaret Mitchell had no training and this was her first and only novel. A true talent. I loved touring her house when we had our RWA conference in Atlanta. :)

Thanks for stopping by today.