Friday, December 14, 2007

Opening lines

Before the chorus. Before the plot. Before the eye-grabbing special effects. Before you know who's who and what's what. Before any of that you have the opening line. Some live up to the expectations and are truly memorable.

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire . . .

Call me Ishmael.
Others are infamous.
It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents--except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.
Others are just plain bad.
Like an overripe beefsteak tomato rimmed with cottage cheese, the corpulent remains of Santa Claus lay dead on the hotel floor.
(for more of these gems, see the
Bulwer-Lytton Contest, also know as the Dark and Stormy Night contest)
What are your favorites? What lines do you always go back to? What opening lines make you want to seek shelter as you pray for fire from heaven to rain down on the author?

, ,


erin said...

I see plenty of awful lines when grading freshmen papers, unfortunately. One of my favorite opening lines is from Pride and Prejudice: "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife." Brilliant.

And of course Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities, a little bit wordier but wonderfully parallel: "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the age of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity..." (I think there's more, but that's all I can remember).

euphrony said...

I like A Tale of Two Cities opening. Classic.

Post a Comment

Thanks for stopping by to leave a comment. Be nice, and it'll stay. Be mean, and it'll go.