Wednesday, June 24, 2009


The opening paragraph, or even sentence, in any book will set the tone for that book, and lay down certain expectations for the reader. No one likes a weak opening. It’s like a limp handshake—sweaty, boneless, and something you can’t wait to get away from at the first opportunity.

Consider these openers:

"Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the Western Spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun. Orbiting this at a distance of roughly ninety-eight million miles is an utterly insignificant little blue-green planet whose ape-descended life forms are so amazingly primitive that they still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea." – Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

“Marley was dead to begin with.” -- A Christmas Carol

“Scarlett O'Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it when caught by her charm as the Tarleton twins were.” – Gone with the Wind

Consider a book’s opening very much like a pick-up line. If it doesn’t grab you or is charming and exciting, your interest probably won’t be captured and you’ll walk away to be potentially tempted by a new one.

Here’s the opening paragraph for my work-in-progress:

Blood everywhere.
The abstract patterns from the violent spray dotted the rose-patterned paper of an unfamiliar drawing room, blending a macabre design with the sedate ordinary. A thick pool of ruby collected under the body of a blond-haired man, a dagger buried to the hilt in his chest, the inlaid jewels on the handle winked in the soft candlelight.

I know, right? Kinda cool and spooky and intriguing. Well, I might be biased…


The thesis paper of your whole novel. But nothing beats them. From the moment I type the opening sequence of a story, I feel such a rush, this wonderful can’t-be-beat feeling that I’m hovering on the verge of quite possibly the most wild ride I’ve ever created. I can’t wait to see where my characters go, why they get into trouble, how they’ll get out of it, when will they kiss, is there going to be a happy ending?


Just one of the aspects of writing that I love. So, as I post this blog, know I’m returning to the beginning of my newest book with high hopes and even higher expectations. See you at the end.

What’s the best opening of one of your favorite books you’ve read or written?


Tonya Kappes said...

129 lbs. (but post Christmas), alcohol units (but effectively covers two days as 4 hours of the party was on New Year's Day), cigarettes 22, calories 5242.

Every time I pick up Bridgette Jones Diary, I realize how brilliant Helen Fielding is as an authore.

Enchanted Crystals said...

"It all started with a penny."

Barbra Annino

Sandra Sookoo said...

Thanks Tonya and Enchanted Crystals for dropping by! :-)

Annie Nicholas said...

The building was on fire, and it wasn't my fault.
Jim Butcher Blood Rites

That one sentence encompasses Dresden's whole character.

Heather B. said...

The King Must Die - opening line from Lover Rhevenged by JR Ward. It definitely sets the tone for the book.

Grimace said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rebecca Royce said...

Okay, once again sorry about the Grimace. Thats me signed in as Ralph. I should check before I do that.

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

J Hali said...

Ours is essentially a tragic age, so we refuse to take it tragically. - Lady Chatterley's Lover

Then there's the best EVER - Who is John Galt?

Anonymous said...

You never see it all. No matter how many times you walked through the blood and gore, no matter how often you looked at the horror man inflicted on man, you never saw it all. J.D. Robb, Imitation in Death.

That line gripped me immediately when I read that book and remained with me ever since. I know I've put down a book after the first couple of paragraphs because it didn't grab me and pull me in.

Great post, Sandi!


Catherine Gayle said...

I can still quote the opening paragraph of one of my favorite novels of all time.

"As I stepped out into the bright light from the darkness of the movie house, I had two things on my mind: Paul Newman and a ride home."

From The Outsiders by SE Hinton.