Despite my experience with novels and how they’re written – which, while not extensive, certainly isn’t too shabby – I had an interesting experience sort of recently which made me stop and take stock.
Of the elements which hook a reader (or, if you’re a wannabe published writer as I am, an agent or editor) is the opening line. It’s crucial to the success of your novel. A good hook set in a reader’s mouth can reel them in for the whole book, even if the writing isn’t stellar from that point forward. The hook is the element most writers hear they need to focus on, make it as impactful as they can.
I asked an acquaintance of mine – technically, my wife asked him – to read a piece I considered submitting for publication. My friend Sherri had given me her feedback already, and my loving spouse offered me a good deal of her input too. So I thought a tie-breaker would be in order. You know, just see what shakes out from having someone who’s not as familiar with my work look over my story and see what they thought.
I asked him to be brutally honest, and to his credit he was. Of all the very helpful things he pointed out, one of the things he liked least in the story was the beginning (he hated the ending too; not a good combination). Sherri told me the hook was adequate, but not great. Only my gentle wife said it was good.
So I looked at the opening. I haven’t revised it yet. Time is not my friend now, but I don’t want the critiques to go for naught. I will make the changes suggested and see where it goes. But the story, as I wrote it, got a rejection from the only place I submitted it. I could keep trying, but I think I want to improve it first and see what happens.
What’s the best opening line to a book you’ve ever seen? What line stuck with you, wedged into your mind so solidly you can’t forget it? What book’s opening sentence grabbed you so viciously and refused to let go until you finished the book? Can you remember it?
I’ll start, okay? This is, in my humble and mostly uneducated opinion, the best opening line in all of literature:
The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.
That’s from Stephen King’s The Dark Tower cycle, book one, The Gunslinger. It’s the opening line to the entire cycle, which goes for seven books.
How about you? What gets your vote?
Sound off, and let me know.
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