It Was a Dark and Stormy Night …

by Zoë Sharp

I’m fascinated by opening lines. It’s a question I always ask other writers: "What’s the opening line of your last/latest book?" and it’s amazing how often they can’t quite seem to remember, or maybe they’re just a little embarrassed to be able to quote it verbatim off the top of their head.

For me, nothing is harder to write than that first sentence. I’m reminded of the famous quote – can’t remember who originally said it – that goes: ‘After three months of continuous hard labour, he thought he might just have a first draft of the opening line.’ Always gets a laugh, but the terrible thing is that it’s not far off the truth.

I just can’t go forwards until I have a start I’m happy with. Maybe it’s because when I pick up a book by a new or new-to-me author, the first thing I read is the opening paragraph. It says everything about the pace, the style, the voice. It basically tells me if I want to go on with the rest of the book, almost regardless of anything else.

So far, I’ve been lucky and nobody’s asked me to change the start of a book – it’ll happen, I’m sure – but generally speaking, I’m pretty easygoing about edits. If my agent or my editor says something needs altering or cutting, and I don’t have a really good reason for that scene to stay, it goes. Comes from years of non-fiction writing for magazines, where you couldn’t get away with lying full length on the floor and beating your fists into the carpet, wailing, just because somebody wanted you to cut half your deathless prose to fit around the pretty pictures.

But I hate it when people mess with the rhythm of what I’ve written for no good reason. I put commas in for their original purpose – to tell the reader when to pause, where to place the emphasis within a sentence so it reads with the same cadence as it had in my head when I wrote it.

I did a short story for a particular magazine last year. It had to be to a specific length and I delivered it precisely 32 words over, which I thought was pretty close to target. The story was entitled ‘The Getaway’ and my original opening went:

‘Lenny Bright sat opposite the Holland and Seagrave Building Society in a gunmetal Honda Accord with the engine running. He hadn’t taken his eyes off the front door for twenty minutes, and right at that moment he would have sold his soul for a cigarette.’

But when the magazine arrived, to my surprise the editor had changed the opening to:

‘Sitting opposite the Holland and Seagrave Building Society Lenny Bright kept the engine of his gunmetal Honda Accord running. He hadn’t taken his eyes off the front door for twenty minutes, and he would have sold his soul for a cigarette.’

Not a great deal of difference, I grant you, but enough to change the whole character of the opening, the pace, the style, everything. Lenny’s a getaway driver, as the title suggests, so it’s not his Honda, for a start. And somehow the ‘right at that moment’ seemed an important point to make about Lenny’s sudden craving for nicotine. Quite apart from anything else, it just reads WRONG to me, and I wish they’d asked me before they messed with it – or even told me beforehand that they intended to – but there you go. Argh!

When I was kicking around the idea for this post, I went and looked up the opening lines for my fellow ’Rati, and when you look at them all, one after another, you really get a feel for the eclectic styles of this highly talented group of writers.

Pari Noskin Taichert – THE SOCORRO BLAST

‘If hell exists, it’s filled with old boyfriends … and a cat.’

Louise Ure – THE FAULT TREE

‘At the end, there was so much blame to spread around that we could all have taken a few shovelfuls home and rolled around in it like pigs in stink.’

Robert Gregory Browne – KISS HER GOODBYE

‘It all started when the pregnant girl went crazy.’

JD Rhoades – GOOD DAY IN HELL

‘The first blow split Stan’s lip and knocked him into a stack of re-capped tyres at the back of the repair bay.’

and THE DEVIL’S RIGHT HAND

"She ain’t no damn lesbian," the stocky man said.

Ken Bruen – CROSS

‘It took them a time to crucify the kid. Not that he was giving them any trouble; in fact, he’d been almost co-operative.’

Brett Battles – THE CLEANER

‘Denver was not Hawaii. There were no beaches, no palm trees, no bikinis, no mai tais sipped slowly on the deck of the Lava Shack on Maui.’

JT Ellison – ALL THE PRETTY GIRLS

"No, please don’t."

and 14

‘Would the bastard ever call?’

Alexandra Sokoloff – THE PRICE

‘Dead of winter, and snow falls like stars from a black dome of sky.’

Toni McGee Causey – BOBBY FAYE’S VERY (VERY, VERY, VERY) BAD DAY

‘Something wet and spongy plunked against Bobbie Faye’s face and she sprang awake, arms pinwheeling. "Damn it, Roy, you hit me with a catfish again and I’m gonna–"’

All very different, all fascinating. They make me want to know more about all these stories, just from the opening lines. Not only that, but I’m intrigued to know if these were the original opening lines for each book? Were there lots of ideas kicked around? Did an editor disagree with your preference and you had to make a major change?

But what makes a good opening line? What’s your personal favourite as a reader? How do you decide on one as a writer? The openings of some of the most famous novels vary wildly, from the famous "Call me Ishmael" of MOBY DICK to the incredible opening sentence from Montgomery’s ANNE OF GREEN GABLES, which weighs in at a hefty 149 words, beating Dickens’ positively lightweight opener to A TALE OF TWO CITIES by a solid thirty. Wow, people must have had the breath control of a whale in those days.

But it’s not just the opening lines that intrigue me, it’s what they represent. They are the jumping-off point for the whole tale. Books never start at the beginning of the story, and deciding exactly where to invite your reader to join you on that journey is an enormously difficult choice, because it’s vital they arrive at the right point to engage their interest, intrigue them, make them unable to leave that bookstore without your book clutched under their arm. But you can’t cheat, either. You can’t open the book with a situation so outrageous that, when the explanation’s finally revealed, it can never live up to the set-up.

When I wrote the opening line for SECOND SHOT, it was one that came to me immediately and it never changed:

‘Take it from me, getting yourself shot hurts like hell.’

The whole of that opening scene, where Charlie Fox, shot twice, lies bleeding in a freezing forest in New England, watching her principal die in front of her, arrived in one big lump, like something out of a movie. I watched it unfold in front of me and I wrote down what I saw, as fast as my little fingers could thump the keys.

But, as you can imagine, the opener for that book is very definitely not the start of the story itself. And, contrary to many expectations, it’s not the end of it either. Not by a long shot. Or, in this case, a couple of medium-range ones. One of the whole ideas behind the book was to strip away Charlie’s physical self-assurance, her capability when it comes to defending herself and those she’s been tasked to protect. So, I put her on crutches for the latter half of the book, just to see how she coped. So, I suppose you could say the real start for the story is Chapter Two, when she first meets Simone, the woman whose life she will fail to save, and Simone’s young daughter, Ella. And that was a pig to write.

Closing lines are just as bad, although when JT told me the closing line for ALL THE PRETTY GIRLS, it links just beautifully with that opener: "No. Please don’t. Yes."

The closing line for SECOND SHOT arrived in the shower while we were staying at a friend’s house in Chicago, and I literally had to jump out from under the spray and write it down. It came to me long before I finished the rest of the book and when I got there, it just seemed to fit perfectly. Maybe I was subconsciously writing towards it the whole time:

‘So, still I ask myself the question: Did I kill him because I had no choice, or because I made one?’

And boy, I hope I never enter one of those bizarre alternate realities where fictional characters spring to life, because if that ever happens I swear Charlie Fox is going to seek me out and beat the crap out of me for what I put her through in that book.

Erm, and the next one, actually …

This week’s Word of the Week, appropriately enough is persue. Not only is this an obsolete spelling of pursue, but it derives from the French percée, the act of piercing. It was used by Spenser – and I mean Edmund the English poet, rather than Robert B Parker’s detective – to mean a track of blood.

32 thoughts on “It Was a Dark and Stormy Night …

  1. Ali

    Interesting post Zoe, and I love first lines – from memory, Dennis Lehane’s ‘PRAYERS FOR RAIN’ – “Karen [++++] was the kind of woman who ironed her socks” – that told me everything I needed to know about the character in one sweet economical line –

    Many quote James Crumley’s ‘THE LAST GOOD KISS’ as a classic opener, but over time, first lines evolve a life of their own – and they change.

    Take David Morrell’s debut novel ‘FIRST BLOOD’, which over thirty years on draws a different picture in my mind than it did in the 1970’s –

    “His name was Rambo, and he was just some nothing kid for all anybody knew, standing by the pump of a gas station.”

    Great post!

    Ali

    Reply
  2. Zoe Sharp

    Thanks, Ali

    I still love the opening line to Orwell’s 1984 – ‘It was a cold bright day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.’

    or Sylvia Plath’s THE BELL JAR – ‘It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn’t know what I was doing in New York.’

    But possibly my favourite is the opening line to Sylvian Hamilton’s THE GLEEMAIDEN – ‘Countess Judith kept her husband’s head in a box.’

    Reply
  3. J.D. Rhoades

    The Crumley and Orwell lines are among my favorites, but here’s one you don’t hear as often, from John Varley’s STEEL BEACH:”In five years, the penis will be obsolete,’ said the salesman.”

    From Dan Simmons’ HARD AS NAILS:”On the day he was shot in the head, things were going strangely well for Joe Kurtz.”

    And thanks for the shout out, Zoe.

    Reply
  4. Rob Gregory Browne

    Great post. The opening line of Kiss Her Goodbye was the first line I ever wrote for the book and, like you, I’m always searching for the right opening line. I can’t even continue writing until I have it.

    I come from the school of Westlake and Goldman, both of whom write wonderful opening lines, particularly Westlake when he’s writing as Richard Stark. Look at those old Parker novels and you’ll see some of the best opening lines EVER.

    When I crack open a book, I generally give the writer a paragraph to engage me.

    Here’s a great opening line:

    “For the third time that morning I shut my eyes tight in absolute and certain knowledge that I was just about to die.”

    Now, let’s face it. How can you NOT continue reading after a line like that? Which, for those who might not know, is the opening of Zoe’s FIRST DROP.

    The best books — to me, at least — begin with someone or something already in motion. That motion can be physical or emotional, it doesn’t matter. But something that’s already in progress. Forward movement that compels the reader to keep moving forward. Gives the reader no choice, in fact.

    Of course, then the next line and the next and the next had better be just as compelling…

    Reply
  5. Zoe Sharp

    JD – love the Varley quote! And the salesman – was he right?

    Rob – bless you! The opening line for FIRST DROP was one that arrived early and wouldn’t budge. I never rewrote the opening for that book at all.

    And I agree absolutely about books that start with something in motion. I always see the scenes in every book as a movie unfolding, but real movies seem to need some kind of establishing shot, where a book can successfully deliver you straight into the thick of it without a pause for breath. Indeed, they’re often better that way.

    Take the beach landing that makes up the opening sequence to ‘Saving Private Ryan’ – possibly one of the most visceral opening scenes of any movie. Wouldn’t have worked without the lead-up of the guys in the landing craft, puking and praying. But in a book you could open with the moment they hit the beach and started dying and retain the impact.

    Some more of my favourites. How could I leave out Lee Child’s iconic Reacher? THE HARD WAY always sticks in my mind: ‘Jack Reacher ordered espresso, double, no peel, no cube, foam cup, no china, and before it arrived at his table he saw a man’s life change forever.’

    And it’s not just fiction where the grabby opening works so well. Two of my favourites from non-fiction come from FIRST INTO ACTION, Duncan Falconer’s account of a life in the Special Boat Service: ‘I was in my first ambush waiting to kill two men I had never seen before.’

    And firefighter Richard ‘Pitch’ Picciotto’s story of surviving the collapse of the Twin Towers, LAST MAN DOWN, starts: ‘When I started out, in the early 1970s, it was the custom in the department to sound a sequence of five bells over our internal bell system, four times in a row, whenever a firefighter died on the job.’

    Brings a lump to my throat every time.

    Reply
  6. Donna

    Oooooh, I LOVE opening lines. The Crumley’s one of my favourites but here are a few others:

    JAMES SALLIS – DRIVEMuch later, as he sat with his back against an inside wall of a Motel 6 just north of Phoenix, watching the pool of blood lap toward him, Driver would wonder whether he had made a terrible mistake.

    STEVE BREWER – MONKEY MANNothing interrupts a nice chat like the arrival of a gorilla.

    VICTOR GISCHLER – GUN MONKEYSI turned the Chrysler onto the florida Turnpike with Rollo Kramer’s headless body in the trunk, and all the time I’m thinking I should have put some plastic down.

    LONELYHEART 4122 – COLIN WATSONArthur Henry Spain, Butcher, of Harlow Place, Flaxborough, awoke one morning from a dream in which he had been asking all his customers how to spell ‘phlegm’ and thought – quite inconsequentially: I haven’t seen anything of Lilian lately.

    FREEZER BURN – JOE LANSDALEBill Roberts decided to rob the firecracker stand on account he didn’t have a job and not a nickel’s worth of money and his mother was dead and kind of freeze-dried in her bedroom.

    GUMSHOE – NEVILLE SMITHHe looked like the kind of guy your mother would like to marry your sister. If you had a mother. If you had a sister.

    TWO WAY SPLIT – ALLAN GUTHRIEFour months and twenty-two days after he stopped taking his medication, Robin Greaves dragged the chair out from under the desk and sat down opposite the private investigator.

    PSYCHOSOMATIC – ANTHONY NEIL SMITHBecause Lydia didn’t have arms or legs, she shelled out three thousand bucks to a washed up middleweight named Cap to give her ex-husband the beating of his life.

    EDGAR BOX – DEATH LIKES IT HOTThe death of Peaches Sandoe, the midget, at the hands or rather feet, of a maddened elephant in the sideshow of the circus at Madison Square Garden was at first thought to be an accident, the sort of tragedy you’re bound to run into from time to time if you run a circus with both elephants and midgets in it.

    Donna

    Reply
  7. Zoe Sharp

    Donna – some of those are familiar to me, and some of them I am certain will become so …

    And Dusty – don’t think you’re sliding out of answering the question so easily. Your opening lines are great – so, spill it: flashes of inspiration or buckets of perspiration? Have you ever been asked to reposition the opening section of one of your books?

    Reply
  8. R.J. Mangahas

    I agree, opening lines can really set the tone for an entire story or book.The opening line for my WIP is “You stole my life.”

    As far as that editor changing your opening, H.G. Wells once said: “No passion in the world is equal to the passion to alter someone else’s draft.”

    Reply
  9. JDRhoades

    Well thank you, darlin’. I consciously try to write an opening that grabs the reader as much as possible, because I know that, with readers picking up the book in a bookstore, you’ve got a quick ten seconds or even less to set the hook.

    I often use what I like to call the “WTF” effect, where the first line or paragraph causes the reader to wonder “WTF is happening here?” and want to keep reading. The effectiveness of the technique is evident from your immediate reaction to the Varley quote: “and the salesman-was he right?” For the answer, you’ll have to get the book, I guess :-).

    Usually, the first line gets rewritten a few times. I know the scene I want to have up front, but I do try for maximum punch frm the first line.

    I’ve never been asked to move an opening section.

    And the mention of Joe R. Landsdale reminds me of another one of his SUNSET AND SAWDUST: “On the afternoon it rained frogs, sun perch, and minnows, Sunset discovered she could take a beating good as Three-Fingered-Jack.”

    Reply
  10. JDRhoades

    Oh, and BTW, when you asked me the first line of my newest one, the reason I looked blank for a second is because I was trying to remember which one was the newest one, which was the one that wasn’t yet out, and which was the WIP.

    First line of the current WIP: “Chernov regarded the dead bodyguard on the floor in front of him and sighed.”

    Reply
  11. JT Ellison

    Z, fabulous post! It’s fascinating to see how we open our books, how we fight to have something to set the exact right stage.

    I love the opening to Ayn Rand’s ANTHEM –It is a sin to write this.

    Nabokov’s opening to Lolita is so sublime…”Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta”

    And of course, what opening line list isn’t complete with a little Jane Austen…”It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.”

    I’m feeling literary today : )

    Reply
  12. Allison Brennan

    Sometimes my first lines come to me instantly and I just *know* it works. Other times I come back to it after I’ve written a couple of chapters because it pops into my head late. (And I HATE writing out of order.) And because I always have a prologue, I feel like I have to have two “first lines” because I’ve heard some people actually DON’T read the prologues. Mine always have a purpose, and because it’s a mystery there’s also usually a clue in the prologue.

    Reply
  13. pari noskin taichert

    Z,Great post!

    I love opening lines and work hard on my own.

    CLOVIS’s original first line changed though, because on the rewrite I decided to start the book earlier in Sasha’s story.

    Original: “Halfway through my third candy bar, I started feeling sorry for myself.”

    Published: “I should’ve stayed in bed.”

    Reply
  14. Zoe Sharp

    RJ, yes, I agree, the opening really does set the whole tone. Your own sounds very cool.

    I hadn’t heard the Wells quote. I just feel like it was dubbed with someone else’s voice.

    And JD, I know how difficult it can be to find that right element to kick the whole thing off. I had a great provisional opening for a book called ROAD KILL, that originally started out with a guy lying bleeding and screaming in the middle of the road, being held down by two soldiers while three more watch from the kerb and a hostile crowd gathers. It was only as the scene opened out that you realised the guy had just had a bad motorcycle accident in east Belfast and the soldiers were trying to treat him. I loved the scene, but it just didn’t drop me into the right place in the story, so it had to go. (sigh)

    Reply
  15. Zoe Sharp

    JT – yes, I nearly quoted the Nabakov line. It’s a cracker.

    Alison – funny you should mention prologues. Alex’s book had a prologue and first chapter line, and I nearly quoted both but didn’t want to cause confusion. Both are terrific, by the way.

    My current WIP currently has a prologue, which starts: ‘The ending might always be different, but the beginning is always the same.’ Whereas the start of the book proper is: ‘It was Grace’s habit to approach death the same way she approached life, with calm deliberation and an open mind.’ Neither is currently set in stone, I might add.

    But it hadn’t occurred to me that people might just skip over it as a point of principle.

    And I frequently write out of order. If a good scene happens along, I write it down quick, before I forget.

    Pari – Interesting to note the differences between your original and final opening lines for THE CLOVIS INCIDENT. Do you have a sneaky liking for the original, or do you think the final one fitted better? I was just mentioning this about the opening for ROAD KILL in my comment to JD.

    Reply
  16. toni mcgee causey

    Whenever I see these discussions here and my stuff listed, I always feel like I’m playing that Sesame Street “One of these things is not like the other” game because of what I write. So thanks, Zoe, for including the line.

    I was never 100% sure of that first line for book 1, but it wouldn’t budge. Book two’s opening came to me like you described — a movie scene unfolding and the first line has never changed:

    Bobbie Faye Sumrall was full up on crazy, thank you very much, and had a side order of cranky to spare.

    And for three openings that made me want to buy their books:

    Calderon figured that, on this night, he had to be the only chauffeur at Los Angeles International Airport who was picking up a dying boy.–Stigma, by Philip Hawley, Jr.

    Melanie Vargas would normally never have dreamed of pushing her baby stroller into the middle of a crime scene.–Most Wanted, by Michele Martinez

    Roger and Aggie held hands as they watched the kid bleed out.–Blood Thirsty by Marshall Karp

    Reply
  17. Will Bereswill

    Zoe, great post. Before I started writing, I usually gave a book a chapter to catch me. It’s more like a paragraph now.

    For me, I usually go back to the first line after I have a good draft of the novel. That way I can better catch the flavor of the finished work and maybe do something with the first line that plays a role in the end.

    This one caught me like J.D.s WTF theory:

    “I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day in January of 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of 1974.” —Jeffrey Eugenides, Middlesex (2002)

    And another one of my favorites is Janet Evanovich’s first of the number series:

    “There are some men who enter a woman’s life and screw it up forever. Joseph Morelli did this to me–not forever, but periodically.” Janet Evanovich, One For The Money

    Reply
  18. Louise Ure

    What a fine, fine collection of opening lines here — both in the blog and the comments.

    I wish I could get paid to just write opening lines/first pages. They take me about fifteen minutes and I never change a word.

    The opening line to my current WIP: “I got away with murder once, but it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen again. Damn. This time I didn’t do it. Well, not much of it anyway.”

    Reply
  19. Zoe Sharp

    Toni – how could I leave you out? It’s a wonderful opening section that catapults you straight into Bobbie Faye’s world. OK, so the title gives you a clue as to the tone, but you know if that opening paragraph grabs you, you’re not going to get a chapter or two further in and put the book down because it wasn’t quite what you were expecting. I loved it. And those three others you quoted all sound so much better than anything I’ve come up with.

    As for Sesame Street, I never watched it and feel SO left out. My Other Half keeps telling me about The Count, but he’s always been a big vampire fan …

    Will – I used to plough through books regardless, but now I find my attention span has slipped badly. If it’s on the shelf, I’ll give it a paragraph. If it comes into my hands by other means than personal choice, I’ll give it the first couple of chapters. If it hasn’t hooked me by then, I put it aside. Some books have a slow-burn fuse. After a few days they call to you and although you didn’t think you were that interested, you find you have to go back to them and read more.

    You’re right about the WTF factor in the Eugenides book. Very intriguing!

    Another favourite of mine is Don Winslow’s amazing CALIFORNIA FIRE AND LIFE, which is possibly the best book in present tense I think I’ve read: ‘Woman’s lying in bed and the bed’s on fire. She doesn’t wake up.’

    Reply
  20. Zoe Sharp

    Louise – so, how much do you charge for this service? I’m sure you’d get plenty of takers!

    The current WIP sounds brilliant, and I thought the opener to THE FAULT TREE was just wonderful. Very distinctive.

    Reply
  21. Ken Bruen

    Zoegreat post……..as you know, when I read Second shot, I emailed you about the sheer cojones of your opening and I’m still impressed as hell……and those opening lines you quote……just mesmerising and I laughed out loud at Pari’s……that is one perfect lineWish I’d written alex’s one too and as they say……I might yet!

    toni, Brett, dusty, Rob,Louise, J.T. ………what a marvellous collection on openings

    Ken

    Reply
  22. Zoe Sharp

    I still treasure the e-mail you sent me when you’d read the m/s of SECOND SHOT, Ken. I’m glad I never realised the opening to the book required cojones, or I probably would have scrapped it long before the finish…

    I think my Other Half summed up perfectly the way starting to read any of your books just sucks you right in.

    He said you fall into a Ken Bruen Vortex. You think, I’ll just read the first chapter … and the next time you look up it’s dark outside and you’re galloping towards the finish.

    Reply
  23. Karen Olson

    Love first lines. They make or break it for me. I’m like Louise, too, I have no problems with opening lines, or first chapters. They’re the easiest for me to write and usually don’t change too much.

    I love Louise’s new first line, and Victor Gischler’s opener for GUN MONKEYS is one of the best ever, IMHO.

    The first line of my next book, SHOT GIRL, is:

    He looked better dead than alive.

    Reply
  24. Doug Riddle

    Great post. I have bought more then a few books based on their first line.

    My current favorites are…

    I remember someone once telling me that you know it’s cold when you see a lawyer with his hands in his own pockets. — Lost by Michael Robotham.

    When I came to I was squatting and cluthing my balls like they were a dangerous little animal that might escape. — Serpent Girl by Matthew Carnahan.

    Like Louise and Karen, first lines come easily too me and are usually the jumping off point for most writing projects. The first line of my current WIP…They found the second body first.

    Doug

    Reply
  25. Alexandra Sokoloff

    It’s interesting how obsessed people are with opening lines. I don’t remember most of them and I don’t need a great opening line to keep reading, but I tend to take in a page first in its entirety before I read individual words

    But now that I think about it, I realize what it is. Coming from screenwriting as I do my opening lines are almost always establishing shots, so I don’t stress over them because I see the images so clearly that all I have to do is describe what I’m seeing.

    Reply
  26. pari noskin taichert

    Wow. What a great discussion.

    Ken, I’m just delighted that I could make you laugh!

    And, yes, Z, I actually liked my original 1st line better than the one that got published. It just wouldn’t have worked when I realized where that book really needed to be started.

    Thank you again for a wonderful post,

    Reply
  27. Fran

    Damn. Now you’ve made me go back and reassess all my opening lines. Which is fine since they’ll probably never see the light of day, but it wasn’t quite what I had planned tonight.

    One of my all time favorite first lines is still Dick Francis’ from IN THE FRAME – “I stood on the outside of disaster, looking in.”

    I love first lines! Thank you!

    Reply
  28. Zoe Sharp

    Apologies to everyone who posted after about 6pm typepad-time last night. Don’t know what time that was over here, but I was working ’til 3:30am Wednesday night, started again before 7am, so I idly decided to call it a night by midnight. This is perhaps why a friend once described my job as ‘a life of terminal dossing…’

    Anyway, thank you to everyone who posted after then, and sorry again that I haven’t responded until now.

    Karen – I loved the Victor Gishler book as a whole, so I’m inclined to agree with you, there.

    Doug – some new ones to me, there, but I thought the Michael Robotham one was lol funny.

    Alex – I think you make an interesting point. People obsess about anything and you can go too far with it. I’m more interested in the first line as it pertains to the jumping-off point for the story and how difficult it is to pick that correct point of entry. And I did make a comment about the opening to films such as Saving Private Ryan, and how that really needed its establishing shot, where in a book you probably would have cut closer to the heart of it. Your work as a screenwriter undoubtedly give you an excellent perspective as an author.

    Pari – yes, I still hanker after that original opening line to ROAD KILL, but what’s done is done 😉

    Fran – I devoured all the Dick Francis books when I was younger. Something to do with being horse-mad as well as into mysteries. Always a great read.

    And never make claims that your own opening lines will never see the light of day. The one thing every single published author has in common is that once they were unpublished …

    Thanks for sharing your own thoughts, Marc. Last lines are just as fascinating a subject. I think I mentioned the great one JT did for ALL THE PRETTY GIRLS.

    Reply
  29. Doug Riddle

    Zoe,

    After reading my post I guess I should have included a perv disclaimer for the Serpent Girl / Matthew Carnahan line…..lol

    The first person narrator of the book has just woken up naked and hallucinating in the desert after robbing a group of truely evil, murderous circus sideshow freaks when he utters that opening.

    (fyi : Matthew Carnahan is the writer/director/producer the the FX series DIRT)

    Doug

    Reply

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