Tuesday, 9 May 2006

Best First Lines in Novels.

In a post dated 9th May 2006 on John Ling's site, he writes:
Most people ignore the power of that first sentence. It can kick things off and set a mood. And the best way to learn how to write one is to study the openings of some classic novels... (more on his site)
How true. One of my favourite things to do when I'm in a bookstore is to open a novel and read the opening line--to see whether the author can hook me into his or her story. If I find one that's really good, I make a mental note of it (and perhaps even buy the book in hand) so I can learn to write as good an opening line in my stories.

Check out the American Book Review's list of 100 Best First Lines in Novels. I don't agree with some of the inclusions but at least my favourite is listed:
30. The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel. —William Gibson, Neuromancer (1984)
But take note! It is usually advised (I think Elmore Leonard is a major proponent) that a story should not start with weather. Gibson got away with it because he was just good.

Swifty shares with us the opposite of the spectrum: Worst opening lines in made-up novels.


  1. Good stuff. I wish you well. Hope you write a best seller.

  2. Thanks! I'd have to finish it first! ;)

  3. For something entirely different, you can check out the worst opening lines for made-up novels. It's a contest of sorts.

  4. Ah, coolness! Thanks for the heads up, Swifty! I was vaguely aware of this before I think, because I seem to remember the winning entry of 2005.

    This could be a warning for what authors should stay away from... and should also elicit quite a few chuckles :D

  5. Gibson is excellent. Do you read Neal Stephenson too?

  6. No, but I have heard a lot of good things about Snowcrash. Have been tempted to pick either that or Cryptonomicon in a bookstore before but I have to confess... the thickness of those book are a bit intimidating!


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