Reminder: Comment for a chance to win in Sunday’s giveaway (details to the right). Up this week: a critique of your first chapter–any genre, plus a great new book journal.
Have you ever bought/read a book based only on its great opening lines? Opening lines are critical. I have tossed many back on the shelf because of a bad opening. I figure if the author can’t nail the opening paragraph, the rest of it will tank as well.
Here’s a book I bought based only on the opening graph: Jonathan Barnes’ The Somnambulist:
“Be warned. This book has no literary merit whatsoever. It is a lurid piece of nonsense, convoluted, implausible, peopled by unconvincing characters, written in drearily pedestrian prose, frequently ridiculous and wilfully bizarre. Needless to say, I doubt you’ll believe a word of it.”
It might be one of my favorite opening paragraphs of all time. Is it one of my favorite books of all time? No!
It was entertaining, unusual, even bizarre. I hated the ending. I didn’t finish it with a sense of profound loss and an urge to start over, as I do with the books I really love. But it convinced me to buy an unknown book by an unknown author and read it. In hardback, no less.
So, I’m fearful of opening lines in my own work. But here they are, anyway. The first was probably rewritten a hundred times. The second and third will most assuredly change, because they’ve only been rewritten a half-dozen times so far.
A secluded Louisiana bayou. A sexy pirate. Seduction and deceit. My Friday afternoon had the makings of a great romantic adventure, at least in theory.
In practice, angry mosquitoes were using me for target practice, humidity had ruined any prayer of a good hair day, and the pirate in question―the infamous Jean Lafitte―was two-hundred years old, armed, and carrying a six-pack of Paradise condoms in assorted fruit flavors.
Jean Lafitte looked really good for a dead guy. He draped his six-foot-two-inch frame across an armchair in his luxury French Quarter suite and waited for me to start my spiel, a ghost of a smile playing on his lips.
Galen Murphy drilled a foot on the brake, shaken by the mental S.O.S. screaming through his head. His tires squealed on the wet, dark road as the car spun and came to an abrupt stop nose-first in a shallow ditch.
Something had happened to Mark.
So, what are the opening lines of the best book you read recently?