And not cheesy pickup lines from drunks at bars, either, although that might be fun.
No, I’m wondering…
What books had GREAT opening lines?
The last camel died at noon.
Call Me Ishmael.
What books have you read that have great opening lines? Why were they memorable? Or did the best books have mediocre opening lines?
Jaws is one of my fave books ever and its opening line kinda sucks. “The great fish moved silently…” Couldn’t go five words without an adverb. Really, Peter Benchley? Really?
The Godfather starts with “Amerigo Bonasera sat in…” Yawn.
Meanwhile, Killer starts with “Fuck The Godfather” which, based on its lame opening line… yeah.
A Separate Peace begins “I went back to the Devon school…” YAAWWNN!! Classic? Clasically bad. A good book and a great story, but a lame opening.
Whereas Catch-22 has maybe the most memorable opening line ever: “It was love at first sight.”
Love that. LOVE it.
and The Other begins “How old do you think miss DeGroot really is?” Love that, too. And that’s one scary as hell book.
I’m not saying these are the best books ever, or even the best opening lines. Okay, well, I did imply that about Catch-22. But these are classic books and these are their opening lines – and times have obviously changed.
Nobody would start Jaws that way today. Nobody.
You want a gripper of an opening, and a first paragraph that makes your reader want to read on. It’s not easy. For example, we recently selected the better opening line for my new novel The Navigators (soon to be released – check out a sample chapter HERE) from these two choices:
“Come on.” Barry jumped up from behind his desk. “An archaeological dig at a mine in central Florida is practically like going to the beach.”
“No way.” Roger shook his head and left the kitchen. “You fuckers are crazy.”
Barry jumped up from behind his desk. “Come on. An archaeological dig at a mine in central Florida is practically like going to the beach.”
“B” won, going away!
(I know, I know. You’re not supposed to start a book with dialog. Um, but Tom Sawyer starts that way. So there.)
Whenever you can get input from your readers, DO IT! They are who you’re writing for, after all. This works for book covers and blurbs and opening lines, as we’ll see later this month. You guys will help me make The Navigators the best it can be.
Tell us the opener from a book you loved and let’s see how it held up over time.
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