Monday, January 10, 2011
What a Line
In today's marketplace, great significance is placed on the first line of a novel. So I thought I'd bring together first lines from some bestselling authors to see what you think. Did these authors hit a home run with their first lines, or do they need to go back to batting practice?
In no particular order other than the way I pulled them from the shelf - and I tried to pull alternate male/female authors:
When he woke in the woods in the dark and the cold of the night he'd reach out to touch the child sleeping beside him.
THE ROAD. Cormac McCarthy
The morning Tony Lucia killed Angelo Coluzzi, he was late to feed his pigeons.
THE VENDETTA DEFENSE. Lisa Scottoline
My name is Odd Thomas, though in this age when fame is the altar at which most people worship, I am not sure why you should care who I am or that I exist.
ODD THOMAS. Dean Koontz
He was coming home.
CHESAPEAKE BLUE. Nora Roberts
I knew this was a really terrific idea, if I didn't say so myself, surprising Paul for lunch at his office down on Pearl Street.
THE QUICKIE. James Patterson
Sometimes you get up in the morning and you know it's going to be one of those days.
PLUM SPOOKY. Janet Evanovich
The first week after Labor Day, after a summer of hot wind and drought that left the cane fields dust blown and spiderwebbed with cracks, rain showers once more danced across the wetlands, the temperature dropped twenty degrees, and the sky turned the hard flawless blue of an inverted ceramic bowl.
LAST CAR TO ELYSIAN FIELDS. James Lee Burke
This was the vacation from hell.
BURN. Linda Howard
Despite the mist, she spent an hour working Chica, and working herself, and she smelled of it, mare-sweat and woman-sweat, with a tingle of Chanel No. 5.
DEAD WATCH. John Sandford
Even though she'd rehearsed the line over and over, it didn't sound at all the way she wanted it to.
OTHER PEOPLE'S SECRETS. Louise Candlish
Do these first lines do it for you? Do they suck you in, tantalize your imagination? Do they pull you forward, entice you to read on?
Or is there one or more that misses the intended mark and leaves you cold?
If you've read any of these books, did the first line fulfill its promise? Or were you pleasantly surprised when you read on? Or worse, did the first-line promise die on the vine?
How much do first lines matter to you - as a writer and as a reader?