This is a guest post by author David Larson
What grabs you as a reader at the start of a great book?
The opening line and paragraph can tell you so much—to portend what’s in store for you and what voice will be telling you the story.
I like to spend hours in bookstores reading only the first paragraph or page of a book. When I find myself lost in the story on the page five, I know the author’s got “it.”
How about these openings lines (you should easily recognize two of the authors)?
“Call me Ishmael.”
“My mother had me sort the eyes.”
“Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show.”
“The grandmother didn’t want to go to Florida.”
I’ve won awards for some openings. Here are a two:
From Hutch, a biography/memoir
I’m 15 and it’s a warm July Saturday night in 1973. I climb the trellis on the side of my father’s ranch home in Lakeside, a dusty suburb East of San Diego. The bougainvillea which once threaded its way through the worn green slats has long been dead from years of neglect, but its thorns still attack my hands. I stand on the roof overlooking the backyard where a four-piece band plays loud and lousy rock-and-roll. Three kegs and a table strewn with hard liquor and drugs does its best to keep a horde of Hells Angels and their women occupied. I crouch by the roof’s edge and twist a 40-ounce Louisville Slugger in my hands. Sweat drips into my eyes. My heart thumps in my ears. I wait for my father to step into view below me so I can bash his brains out.
From Summer, a biography/memory
I never knew a girl named Heather, but if I did, she would have a perfect life. Nothing bad could ever happen to her, not with a name like that. A Heather would never be born to a cocaine-addicted mother. She could never be raised by eight older brothers who were members of the Outlaws Motorcycle Gang. A Heather would make all the right choices in life, wear the prettiest dress at the prom, and her father would give her a brand new red Mustang for graduation.
For certain, a Heather would never be kidnapped by a serial killer, held captive by him for five months, and be the only victim of sixteen young women to escape his dungeons of torture—to testify at his trial.
Not a Heather.
Never a Heather.
But with a name like Summer, yes, that could happen.
And it did.
If the writing does its job, you will be asking this question: “What happens next?”
That’s all a writer wants.
What’s the best opening you’ve read?