Still struggling with how to get your competition entry started? Never fear, here's some more advice on how to write a great first line, with some examples from the pros.
Ian Banks - The Crow Road
Openings don't get much punchier than this one. Shocking and absurd at the same time, we're instantly hooked. Whose grandmother exploded and, most importantly, how did she explode? We're not sure what kind of book will follow an opening line like this one but we definitely want to find out what happened next. And, by the time we do find out, we're already involved in the gripping story and characters.
J D Salinger - The Catcher in the Rye
Holden Caulfield is a narrator with attitude and the strength of this opening line is to give us an insight into the character of the person who will be telling the tale. He is irreverent and individual and there's just a hint of unreliability about him already. Do we want to know the truth? There are no guarantees with Holden in charge but somehow, he encourages us to just go along for the ride. A classic tale of teenage angst.
Gabriel García Márquez - One Hundred Years of Solitude
This opening really does almost start with a bang but then you feel the years reeling backwards in front of your eyes and the pace slowing down to the quirky detail of a childhood adventure. As you read it you know that you're in the hands of a consummate storyteller. It's a great technique, to show us the end before the beginning without giving too much away. We know the Colonel is going to end up in front of the firing squad but we don't know how he came to be there and we don't actually know if he will ultimately be shot. And by the tone of the opening, we feel that we can sit back and relax because it will be an interesting journey along the way.
Leo Tolstoy - Anna Karenina
Ok, so if you like a romping comedy, this one might not tickle your fancy, but it's a great opening nonetheless. It starts with a powerful philosophical statement, telling us that this will be a grand novel about the human condition, and then it swings to focus on the particular in the talk of unhappy families. We know that this will be a tale of one specific unhappy family and the melancholics amongst us long to know about the unique suffering of the characters.
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