Tuesday, 6 May 2014
That brilliant first line
That brilliant opening line
Writing is about many things, hues and shades, subtlety and tension, hints and plotlines. And fiction needs time to develop, to tell the story. However, it is also true that if you want to impress a would-be publisher or maybe a judge in a competition, those early lines are crucial.
Why? Because a great first line can take a story a long way, hook the reader straightaway, get them intrigued, desperate to know more.
I thought about this because a short story has just come into the Global Short Story Competition which had a cracking first line. Would not be fair to mention which story - and Fiona Cooper, our judge, has to make the decision anyway - but it did get me seeking out some cracking first lines from published works.
Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice. —Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude
It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. —George Orwell, 1984
I am an invisible man. —Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man
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. —J. D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye
The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel. —William Gibson, Neuromancer
I am a sick man . . . I am a spiteful man. —Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Notes from Underground
All this happened, more or less. —Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five
It was the day my grandmother exploded. —Iain M. Banks, The Crow Road
I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day in January of 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of 1974. —Jeffrey Eugenides, Middlesex
We started dying before the snow, and like the snow, we continued to fall. —Louise Erdrich, Tracks
It was a pleasure to burn. —Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451
Once upon a time, there was a woman who discovered she had turned into the wrong person. —Anne Tyler, Back When We Were Grownups