Friday, 31 October 2014

Fascinating first lines

We all know that our first lines have to be gripping. I wonder what your favourite first line of a novel is? Do you like the first line of your favourite novel?

Here are a few of my favourite books and how they start:

"Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again." Rebecca, Daphne Du Maurier.

"The van der Lindens' house was distinguished from the others on the street by the creeper that covered half the front, running up to the children's rooms beneath the eaves, where at night the glow from the sidewalk lamp gave to Number 1064 the depth and shadow of a country settlement, somewhere far away from this tidy urban street." On Green Dolphin Street, Sebastian Faulks.

"The Boulevard Du Cange was a broad, quiet street that marked the eastern flank of the city of Amiens." Birdsong, Sebastian Faulks.

"Hush...Can you hear him?" The Distant Hours, Kate Morton.

"They said I was a drug addict." Rachel's Holiday, Marian Keyes.

"When he was nearly thirteen my brother Jem got his arm badly broken at the elbow." To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee.

"Her body moved with the frankness that comes from solitary habits." Prodigal Summer, Barbara Kingsolver.

"Mabel had known there would be silence." The Snow Child, Eowyn Ivey.

"My father's family name being Pirrip, and my christian name Philip, my infant tongue could make of both names nothing longer or more explicit than Pip." Great Expectations, Charles Dickens.

And if I keep playing this game, I'll never be done; opening the doors to my bookshelves has sent me on a delightful half hour of revisiting old friends, and reminding me how long it has been since I've read some of these. Just one more, that most notorious of first lines:

"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife." Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen.

Whew, what a range, what power, what trends to consider in all these. Look how long Faulks can be; how gentle Dickens. I got a tingle up my spine opening The Distant Hours - that first scene was so gripping that reading the first line made me instantly tense. So much to aspire to! Now onto what prompted this little excursion.

My nine year old daughter, who is an obsessive reader (at parent's evening, her teacher said, "I've never known a child read so compulsively" as though it were a sin. I thought I'd better not admit to the same disorder) has never shown interest in writing. I thought she never would, and then, two weeks ago, I saw the light in her eyes. She's been scribbling, on and off, ever since, then nagging me to help her to type it onto the laptop. Today we started typing and I was struck by her first line.

"Once, some Time-Travellers made a bed, and because they were poor they had to sell it, which was a shame as it was a most pulchritudinous bed."

How's that for originality? I expect it will fall down at line two, because she is only nine, but I'm fascinated to know why there are Time-Travellers in her story, and if they have capitalisation for a reason, and if the story is really about the bed or if it will wander off down other avenues. As always, I wish I had a pinch of the originality of a child. What a's always good to be inspired by others whether they are literary greats, skilled writers of today or nine year old girls. Hope something inspires you today!

1 comment:

  1. I love this post! And love that your book living daughter has begun telling her own stories. That first line is fantastic in every sense!