Here’s an (old) post on Medium by Anna Paradox: What I learned from studying first sentences
I thought I knew a lot about first sentences. It turns out that they are still surprising me.
At her blog:
Of these works, the first sentence that interested me most came from A Closed and Common Orbit, book two of the Wayfarers series:
“Lovelace had been in a body for twenty-eight minutes, and it still felt every bit as wrong as it had the second she woke up in it.”
There’s a lot to unpack here. We have a character, Lovelace. She has a problem – something feels very wrong. Character plus problem is a first sentence formula that can fit any genre.
Lovelace’s specific problem, however, takes up the rest of the sentence, and shows us that the world is not our own.
Scroll down from there to read Anna’s commentary about this and many other first sentences, including the first sentence of Tuyo.
Now that I’m once again thinking of first sentences, and therefore novel openings, as sporadically happens, here’s the opening of a book I haven’t read for a long time: The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson:
“No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream. Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against its hills, holding darkness within; it had stood so for eighty years and might stand for eighty more. Within, walls continued upright, bricks met neatly, floors were firm, and doors were sensibly shut; silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone.”
That’s just about the most atmospheric opening imaginable. Also, you couldn’t pay me enough to go into that house. Or, I mean, you could, but it would have to be a pretty significant sum.
Speaking of houses:
When the Moon rose in the Third Northern Hall I went to the Ninth Vestibule to witness the joining of three Tides. This is something that happens only once every eight years. The Ninth Vestibule is remarkable for the three great Staircases it contains. Its Walls are lined with marble Statues, hundreds upon hundreds of them, Tier upon Tier, riding into the distant heights.
Lovely! Happy to visit, wouldn’t want to be stuck there.
The child’s world changed late one afternoon, though she didn’t know it. Sh lay at the edge of hte hazel coppice, one cheek pressed ot the moss that smelt of worm cast and the last of the sun, listening: to the wind in the elms, rushing away from the day, to the jackdaws changing their calls from “Outward! Outward!” to “Home now! Home!,” to the rustle of the last frightened shrews scuttling under the layers of leaf fall before the owls began their hunt.
If you’ve read a particularly great novel recently, what was the first sentence? Did it offer promise that the book fulfilled?