October 13, 2010

RTW: Favorite opening lines

Each week, YA Highway hosts Road Trip Wednesday, a blog carnival in which contributors discuss a topic on their blogs and invite readers to do the same. This week's RTW topic is:

What are your favorite first lines? How do your own WIPs (works in progress) start?

There are so many famous first lines: Call me Ishmael... It is universally acknowledged... Happy families are all alike... It was a dark and stormy night...

But favorites? This really isn't going to surprise most of you:

Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.

and

Scarlett O'Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it when caught by her charm as the Tarleton twins were.

Told you.

I've never really understood the hype surrounding opening lines, so my favorite openings are from my favorite books. Unless it's absolutely boring (A piece of paper sat on the desk, perhaps?), I don't see how a single line can make or break a novel. I know most people don't agree, buuuut that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

As for my novel's first line, it is only 3 words, so I'll give you the first two sentences:

Crazy Aunt Patti. Maggie loved her, but Patti was as superstitious as they came.

13 comments:

Sarah Enni said...

I agree-- I definitely love first lines, but I rarely put a book down if the first line (or paragraph even) disappoint. I'm more likely to dismiss a book when the description/summary is dull.

Your first line is awesome! Who doesn't love crazy aunts?

Debbie said...

I'm not so judgemental of the first line of any book as I am the first page. I'll pick up a book, read the first page, and, if I haven't been sucked in, I'll put the book down and move on to the next. Whether wrong or right, that is the bar against which I judge the opening of any book, including my own. Interesting post. Thanks!

Jennifer Hoffine said...

I do agree with you. As a reader, first lines aren't make or break for me, or even that memorable.

But as a writer it feels different. Publishing professions can (and probably sometimes do) stop reading a manuscript after the first line, no matter how good the rest is.

Yours sounds great, BTW:)

Kate said...

Gone With the Wind definately has a good opener. That one line says everything you need to know about Scarlett.

Karla Nellenbach said...

Those first three words say an awful lot...not just about the aunt but also your MC :)

Kristin Miller said...

I would say first lines are one of those things that when done decently, I don't notice for good or bad. But when the are brilliant, I remember them always. And not that many are brilliant - to be sucked in with a handful of words is an art. But I totally get not being blown away by first lines. ;)

Erinn said...

Doesn't everyone have a crazy Aunt? I always spell the word wrong and say Anut... which always seems right too.

Kirsten said...

I chose HP toooooo! So great.

Pam Harris said...

I totally agree with you. I think there's way too much pressure on opening lines. If I read a summary of the book and I think it's going to appeal to me, I'll keep reading regardless. :)

Kaitlin Ward said...

I definitely don't put down a book because of one boring line, but I think sometimes they do matter. I WILL put down a book after a first paragraph or two if they're really bad.

Love your choices!

Jess said...

I am already in love with Aunt Patti. Superstitious people are instant fun. :) What a great first line!

Claire Dawn said...

I love great first lines. But I don't think every book lends itself to a mindblowing first line.

If I pick up a book knowing nothing about it, and it doesn't capture me on the first page, I'll probably put it down. If it's "acclaimed" by friends or critics or bestsellers lists, I'll try and stick with it for a while. Like how I've read up to page 17 in Anna Karenina about 8 or 9 times...

Jess said...

Harry Potter's first line is such a classic! Love it!

And your first line is so good, too. Superstitious people are instantly cool to me, so I'm already a fan of Crazy Aunt Patti.

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