Sunday, July 18, 2004

Great Opening Lines

Some books start off slow, but build and develop their characters and plot in ways that are engaging and intriguing. Then there are the books that start off with a bang. As i've been thinking more lately about my own writing, i've been reflecting on some of my favorite opening lines. 

There are only two i can recite from memory. Charles Dickens' opening to A Tale of Two Cities is probably the most famous. "It was the best of times; it was the worst of times ...." Still, my all-time favorite (so far) has to be,

"They shoot the white girl first. With the rest they can take their time." (Toni Morrison, Paradise)

Damn. Don't that just make you want to know what the hell is going on?
There are other lines, ones that i don't necessarily remember, but that i've stumbled across thumbing through the beginning of my books.

"The damn'd blood burst, first through his nostrils, then pounded through the veins in his neck, the scarlet torrent blinded him, and brought Arthur down, down, down, down, down." (James Baldwin, Just Above My Head)

"A chair, a table, a lamp. Above, on the white ceiling, a relief ornament in the shape of a wreath, and in the cnter of it a blank space, plastered over, like the place in a face where the eye has been taken out. There must have been a chandelier, once. They've removed anything you could tie a rope to." (Margaret Atwood The Handmaid's Tale)

"I was left back when I was twelve because I had a baby for my fahver. That was in 1983. I was out of school for a year. This gonna be my second baby. My daughter got Down Sinder. She's retarded." (Sapphire, PUSH)

"I lost an arm on my last trip home. My left arm." (Octavia Butler, Kindred)

"1968. Mom and I were both sure Ben was dead. If i'm never sure of anything else in my life, I knew the exact moment Ben and I had stopped speaking to each other for good. And I knew Mom could tell he wasn't listening to her anymore, either." (Bil Wright, Sunday You Learn How to Box)

I'm sure there are more, but these ar the ones i came across today. Any suggestions for opening lines that might make me want to pick up the book?

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