I like this long post analyzing Charlotte’s Web, by PJ Parrish on Kill Zone Blog — rather a change of pace from that blog’s focus on thrillers and mysteries.
I fell in love with this book the first time I read it. I was maybe eight or nine, just around the age of the heroine Fern. But a couple years back, on the 60th anniversary of its publication, I decided to read it again.
What a revelation. It is, of course, maybe the most famous kid book ever. It won the Newbery and remains the bestselling children’s paperback even today. But what I didn’t realize is that it is a terrific story for adults. …
[I]s there a more chilling opening line in all of fiction: “Where’s father going with that ax?” Fern asked.
THE LESSON: Don’t waste time with pages of gorgeous description. Find the right moment to parachute the reader into your story. Build tension as quickly as you can.
As I say, this is a long post. It goes through the whole story point-by-point. But I enjoyed reading the post and now kind of feel like perhaps re-reading Charlotte’s Web myself.
However, though the cited line is indeed a very catchy opening, there are in fact undoubtedly more chilling first lines in fiction. Here are some contenders:
“Ironically, since the attacks, the sunsets have been glorious.”
Angelfall by Susan Ee
“I’ve confessed to everything and I’d like to be hanged. Now, if you please.”
Chime by Franny Billingsley
Anybody got another example of a first line that is especially chilling? I’m sure I’m missing plenty.