Wednesday, March 5, 2008

First lines

Every writer knows how important first lines are. It's the equivalent of having a storyteller pull a chair up real close to to someone, saying, "You ever hear about..."

The reader is your captive. Or so you hope, if you're a good enough storyteller.

Richard Peck did a whole session in last weekend's workshop about opening lines. And while he made the comment that the first chapter should foreshadow the entire book, the opening line is what pulls you in to the first chapter.

The classic perfect first line in children's literature (or perhaps any literature) comes from E.B. White, in Charlotte's Web: "Where's Papa going with that axe?"

Where, indeed? And, Papa, WHY?

And so I'm beginning my own mid-week (because there's too many other things to write about on Monday) feature on great opening lines.

Here's one of my recent favorites:
If I could tell you only one thing about my life it would be this: when I was seven years old the mailman ran over my head. As formative events go, nothing else comes close: my careening, zigzag existence, my wounded brain and faith in God, my collisions with joy and affliction, all of it has come, in one way or another, out of that moment on a summer morning when the left rear tire of a United States postal jeep ground my tiny head into the hot gravel of the San Carlow Apache Indian Reservation. -- The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint, by Brady Udall.
I'm hooked...are you?


Sminthia said...

So, there I was, tied to an altar made from outdated encyclopedias, about to get sacrificed to the dark powers by a cult of evil Librarians.

Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians

Brandon Sanderson

Sara Latta said...

That's brilliant. It sent me scurrying to Amazon to learn more about this book! And a perfect title, too.