As an avid life-long reader, I have a bit of a ‘thing’ for opening lines. The opening line of a book has to woo me. It has to make me gasp. It has to make me want to carry on. If your opening line is bland, rubbish or obscure, dear writers, sadly, you’ve lost me. I don’t want to know what else you have to say if you can’t be clever, witty or create a potential thunder clap in your first line.
There are some great opening lines out there in the world of literature. There are even websites dedicated to ‘great first lines’. I won’t bore you with what the internet offers as great first lines as you can find them yourself, but I will tell you my own all-time favourite. This is the first line that got me hooked both on a particular book and on the concept of great first lines. The line in question was: ‘It was love at first sight.’ Answers on a postcard please. It is quite a famous novel. And incidentally, the author only wrote one other, I believe, unusual in this age of multiple series. No idea? Then I think I’d better give you the second line as a hint: ‘The first time Yossarian saw the chaplain he fell madly in love with him.’ Too easy, surely? Answers to Hobeck Towers please.
In my opinion (the ‘Beck’ of Hobeck), the opening line of our latest signing deserves to be in one of those internet top tens of ‘best first lines’. It is a corker. It certainly got me to continue reading when this particular submission arrived on the Hobeck doorstep many months ago.
Speaking to our latest signing this morning, who I will now reveal to you is Brian Price, we found out that he won a competition for the first line of his forthcoming book. I was amazed, but not surprised. In fact, as the story goes, he entered a first line competition, won the prize, and then felt compelled to keep going. We are so glad he did.
However, it is no good having a great heart-stopping first line if the rest of the book is not up to scratch (even if you have persuaded me to read on, I won’t persevere just because you started off brilliantly). That was certainly not the case with Brian’s submission. As Adrian and I read on (independently and at different speeds to each other – I am speedy, he is the slow and steady) we realised that we had another have-to-have Hobeck author in Brian. We simply loved his book. We loved his characters. We loved his plot. We loved his style. He’s good. He’s solid good. He writes with accuracy and feeling (and he writes bloody good first lines). His writing is both structurally sound and aesthetically pleasing. There are writers who can master either accuracy or feeling and they may struggle with the other. There are writers who can master both. One of the two might be a writer’s natural strength, but if they can nail the two, then they are on their way to being a writing craft master.
I am dying to reveal what the first line of Fatal Trade is (the book that Hobeck have now agreed to publish this autumn), the one that had me gasping, but as a lover of carrot dangling, I won’t.
You’ll just have to read it to find out.