I wrote in Great Opening Lines – and Why! (Part 3 – Some Great Opening Lines) that I’d share more great opening lines as I found them.
This month’s great opening lines deal with youth and how we as adults reconcile our youths.
“My room is cold.” – S.M. Stevens’ Horseshoes and Hand Grenades
So simple and so powerful. Four short words and we’re already inside the character, have a sense of isolation, deprivation, futility, victimization, … Wow. Not since Anne McCaffery’s “Lessa woke, cold.” in Dragonflight has so simple an opening been so evocative.
Trailing immediately on Stevens’ opening line is the rest of a powerful, short, tension driving opening paragraph: I pull my yellow blankie up under my chin. I wish Tramp was here. Maybe I will fall asleep in time.
Okay, let me put all my cards on the table; I have a history with the issues covered in this book; I’ve studied it, lectured on it, and contributed to the literature on it back in the day. I’m sensitive to how the issues covered in this book are portrayed and have dealt with such issues in my own writing.
All that noted, Stevens’ Horseshoes and Hand Grenades is a remarkable read and a tour-de-force for all readers. It’s an especially powerful read for anyone dealing with such issues on a personal level. She writes so tenderly and with such strong while subdued emotionality (I found myself constantly waiting for the lightning to strike and I won’t give you a spoiler whether it does or doesn’t. Read the book and find out for yourself!) you keep reading and reading long after you should be asleep (I did)
Hooray, Ms. Stevens, Hooray!
“Even before we got on the plane, I was planning my getaway.” – Ted Myers’s Paris Escapade
Twelve words and we know the viewpoint (1st person), the theme (v Self), the setting (modern…ish. A plane is mentioned), and the mood (the passive voice shows disdain, contempt).
That one line is the entire opening paragraph. The second paragraph gives you all the backstory you need and the third (and still on the first page) provides a delicious overdose of the character. I write “delicious overdose” because it’s completely over the top and so in the narrator’s tone, voice, and style that I laughed out loud (and this character read the same books I did? Wow!).
And the best part? Pay attention to that third paragraph and you have the entire, wonderful novel laid out for you.
Go for it!
(and fwiw, I found much of this book to be a future anthropologist’s/archaeologist’s goldmine, literally a guidebook to a time and place I remember well and nostalgically (much like Terry Melia’s Tales from the Greenhills))