Opening sentence

I was talking about the opening sentence of my novel with a writing friend recently. The conversation reminded me of an old post I wrote. It’s been a few years, but here it is:

Thursday, March 17th, I spent the morning in anxiety, the afternoon in ecstasy, and the evening unconscious.
“Risk” by Dick Francis

In defense of Althalus, it should be noted that he was in very tight financial circumstances and more than a little tipsy when he agreed to undertake the theft of the Book.
 “The Redemption of Althalus” by David and Leigh Eddings

Mr and Mrs Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.
 “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” by JK Rowling

I’d never given much thought to how I would die – though I’d had reason enough in the last few months – but even if I had, I would not have imagined it like this.
 “Twighlight” by Stephenie Meyer

I love first sentences. To be drawn in from the first few words is something I look for in a book (although by no means a reason to not read). The above 4 examples are all written by some of the world’s most successful authors, and all are favourites of mine. But I’ve never really thought about these sentences. What draws my interest? When I started to consider it I realised they all do the same thing:

  • they all introduce something about the characters – and in all but the Harry Potter example, the main characters
  • they all make me ponder a question – What could cause such a range of emotions in one day? What is the Book and why would Althalus not agree to steal it unless he was tipsy? Why would you need to be able to say you were normal, let alone be proud of it? How was she dying if it wasn’t something you could imagine?
  • by making me ponder a question I have to read on to find my answer (they immediately captured me)
  • they are all ‘different’, original openings
  • they are all simple – simple language and simple ideas

Do you have a favourite first sentence?

15 comments on “Opening sentence

  1. My favourite first sentence comes from “Ella Enchanted”, by favourite book. I can’t remember it to write it here but I can remember the feeling of “oooo” the very first time I read it like 20 years ago lol.

    I once read somewhere that you’re not supposed to start a book with the classic “it was a dark and stormy night”. Being the lovely personality that I am, I decided to do just that. So far I have the first three sentences done to that story. I’ll have to see where it takes me haha

    • “That fool of a fairy Lucinda did not intend to lay a curse on me.”

      Of course I had to run to my bookshelf to look it up, because that’s one of my favorite books of all time. And as soon as I started reading it, I realized it’s high time I reread it. Putting it on the bedside table today.

      I love all the Gail Carson Levine books, but discovered her through her shorter stories, The Princess Tales. I found Cinderellis and the Glass Hill and never looked back.

      • YYYAAAASSSSSSS I once did a writing exercise where I had to take the first sentence of a book and craft my own story based on it, and that’s the one I chose. I love love LOVE it! I have read quite a few of her other books as well but nothing really touched me as much as Ella Enchanted did!

        Now that you mention it, I think I should read it again too!

        • I’ve seen the movie but not read the book. But I do love that first line…it’s intriguing!! With such ringing endorsements for the book I will have to hunt it down the next time I’m at the library.

  2. I can spend hours trying to craft that genius. Sigh.

  3. First sentences are hard. You’re starting from nothing, generally. There was an agent who did a first sentence contest on his blog several years ago. The entries…

    • Oh, that would have been fun to read. I always come back to my first sentence, but I never seem to nail it. I tell myself not ever book has a killer first sentence!

  4. I love all those first sentences you featured, though I’ve only read two of the four books. But it makes me want to read the others, which is certainly a sign of a well-crafted beginning.

    • A good first sentence will definitely make me pick up and read a book – but a not-so-good first sentence won’t stop me reading it. Those books are all favourites of mine =)

  5. Omg yes read the book! The movie is complete garbage when compared to the book haha it’s my “worst movie ever” lol

    • So glad to hear that because I didn’t love the movie.

      • I agree with GF. I always tell people the only thing the book and movie have in common in this case is the title. I couldn’t believe how bad they butchered it.

        lol and I love how we’ve turned your comment section into a discussion of Ella Enchanted.

        • Omg yes! Totally killed it with that movie! I avoided it for about a year or so after it came out and finally was too curious to not watch it. And I was so angry the whole time! I was actually just telling someone about this on Saturday and I got so angry just talking about it haha!! Probably not the best “first meeting” conversation but whatever’s! Lol

      • The movie must be so different to the book for you to both feel so strongly about it. I will definitely try and get the book from the library for the Christmas holidays!

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