This article by The Book Nook discusses the power of the opening sentence, quoting Stephen King as declaring that ‘an opening line should invite the reader to begin the story… it should say: Listen. Come in here. You want to know about this.’ I can’t help but agree. When I wrote The Fire Fox and the Harvest Moon I agonised for hours over the opening line and then when it came to me it was like tasting the most perfect piece of chocolate fudge cake or sipping a gin and tonic on a summer’s day – it just felt right. That’s not to say that books with less than stellar opening lines can’t be amazing but it makes a difference, right? With that in mind I have put together a list of the most powerful opening lines that I can think of. Let me know your favourites.
1. ‘When I stepped out into the bright sunlight from the darkness of the movie house, I had only two things on my mind: Paul Newman and a ride home.’ The Outsiders, SE Hinton
2. ‘You better not never tell nobody but God.’ The Colour Purple, Alice Walker
3. ‘My name was Salmon, like the fish; first name, Susie.’ The Lovely Bones, Alice Sebold
4. ‘Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show.’ David Copperfield, Charles Dickens
* I think it is widely believed that the opening line of A Tale of Two Cities (‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…’) is Dickens’ greatest but I just love the idea of being the hero of your own life so this is mine.
5. ‘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, Jane Austen
6. ‘It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.’ Nineteen Eighty Four, George Orwell
7. ‘It was inevitable: the scent of bitter almonds always reminded him of the fate of unrequited love.’ Love in the Time of Cholera, Gabriel Garcia Marquez
8. ‘In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since.’ The Great Gatsby, F Scott Fitzgerald
9. ‘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.’ The Catcher in the Rye. JD Salinger
10. ‘Dr Iannis had enjoyed a satisfactory day in which none of his patients had died or got any worse.’ Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, Louis de Bernieres