Opening lines are worth their weight in chocolate. Okay, no, let’s not get crazy. We need to nibble on that chocolate while we’re reading! Today A Drift of Quills are taking a look at favorite opening lines—and why we love ‘em.
The internet is full of lists of “best first sentences.” That opening line garners a lot of attention. It has a lot of work to do! It’s got to set the mood and draw the reader in. No hemming and hawing, blushing, or flailing around for something to talk about. (So I would totally fail as an opening line…)
Luckily, writers can devote a little time to figuring out that all-important greeting before someone opens the door. Er… book. I’m going to skip past the Usual Suspects and head straight to my own shelves. Oh, the hand-rubbing and gleeful expressions! I love rummaging through my books and I’m in the mood for a little questionable book-sniffing. So I’m going to stick with physical copies this go-round, which is strictly unfair to the digital part of the collection, but who’s the boss? I’m the boss!
Let’s dive right into something a little terrifying…
Okay, all three of my selections lean strongly toward “terrifying.” They certainly grabbed my attention!
Darkness. Silence. The weight of solitude. Each was a weapon meant to break her, to drive her into humiliation out of defiant self-possession; to goad her into surrender, into pleas for mercy, for compassion, for understanding.
~Lady of the Forest, by Jennifer Roberson
Why I Like It: This one tiny snippet conjures images of cell deep underground, and the understanding that this person—this woman?—is hovering on the brink of defeat. What’s she surrendering to? Who is she and why has she been locked up? And am I reading right that perhaps she’s been abused or tortured in some way?
Maulkin abruptly heaved himself out of his wallow with a wild thrash that left the atmosphere hanging thick with particles. Shreds of his shed skin floated with the sand and muck like the dangling remnants of dreams when one awakes.
~Ship of Magic, by Robin Hobb
Why I Like It: Wait, a wallow?? Well, that’s unexpected! And what a picture this paints: gunk in the air, shredded skin, muck, ewwwww… What’s going on here, and who or what is Maulkin?
At first, in the flurrying snow, he thought the soldier stumbling in front of him, through the icy mud of the Frostmarch Road, had been wounded, that the man’s neck and shoulders were spattered with blood.
~The Heart of What Was Lost, by Tad Williams
Why I Like It: Okay, I’m there. I’m on that road, horrified by what I see. Is the fellow injured? Why? How? And if he’s not, what on earth is he wearing? And putting my inner fashionista aside, how awful to be trudging along on a frozen road in the snow. That’s not something I would do voluntarily, so what are these people doing there?
Each of these examples of opening lines easily set a mood and draws the reader in. Don’t you want to read more?
I’ve got you covered (Yup, that’s a pun!):
And then there’s this one:
I am called Crow, and I am a thief. The name and the profession go hand in hand and, like the bird, I am not at all opposed to appropriating what pleases me.
That one’s mine, and I’m a little partial to it—and to Crow himself, who makes people (besides me) laugh and has an absurdly high opinion of himself. Have you read it?
For those faithful readers awaiting Crow’s next adventure, I beg your forgiveness and patience. Being a full-time caregiver has impacted me in ways I could never have imagined, but I’ve recently re-made a commitment to writing every day. Every, Single. Day. Sometimes it’s all I can do to peck out a hundred words, and I struggle not to get discouraged about the pathetically low output. But you know what? Except for the day I re-released my short story collection Obscurely Obvious, I’ve succeeded in meeting my goal every day since July 31st. Woohoo!
I want to thank all of you who have supported me with your wonderful emails, your comments and messages on social media, gifts, prayers, and sending light my way. You know who you are. You are awesome, and I’m so blessed to have you in my life!
So. Shall we go discover what my fellow Quills have dug up for their favorite opening lines?
Author of The Unseen Chronicles
Parker went on vacation.
To the beach.
From which he was evacuated.
He’s safe. Yay! (But you can bet *I* want to hear about this story!)
Update: I was on a trip to the Outer Banks with the fam and several of our close friends when Hurricane Dorian hit. Fortunately, we were able to evacuate and found another spot to land on Lake Gaston. It just so happened…
Author of the Oathtaker Series
I found this subject fun—and challenging, as there are so many great lines to choose from. In the end, I chose to go with a couple of very well-known openings—followed by a lesser-known line, namely (uh-oh, hear the self-promotion here!) one of my own. The reason for my last choice is that I worked very long and hard on the line, and in the end, am so thoroughly satisfied with it, that I’d like to share it with you (and, in truth, I can’t think of a better time to do so).
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What are a few of your favorite opening lines? Tell us about it in the comments below!