I like books that begin with a BANG.
Doesn’t have to be a literal bang (though not arguing against those), but just a “hook-me-so-hard-I-won’t-put-this-book-down-unless-you-pry-it-from-my-cold-clammy-grasp-of-doom” sort of bang. There are a lot of books out there, begging for me to read them, so when it comes down to picking between them: yes, the first sentence might make a difference.
You can also deduce a lot about a book from the first sentence. (Excuse my Sherlock.)
It’s never the only selling fact for me, but I won’t deny that it makes the reading experience awesome.*
(Plus, judging first sentences is almost as fun as judging covers.)
So together, we shall deduce why these first sentences of these books are so freakishly fantastic.
Now keep calm. And look out for Sherlock.
* Plus, judging first sentences is almost as fun as judging covers. What? These things just happen.
This squeals intrigue, it really does. Why does the “first day of November” mean sure death? COME NOW. Tell me your secrets, precious manuscript.
I’m deducing it’s popular to begin books with DEATH and DESTRUCTION. Which kind of makes sense, because death intrigues humans to no end. We can also deduce about this book that it’ll:
a) involve parents
b) involve someone who likes to read (yay!)
c) involve someone who’s presumably depressed (just a hunch).
I’m quite fond of the beginning of Gone because it uses the title straight away. You know the book means business. And also, if we can analyse a minute (don’t sigh at me) it tells you a lot of things about the book. Like a) it’s about children since they’re still in school and b) it’s ironic with the talk of vanishing mid “war” lecture, and c) it’s already using short punchy sentences so we know the book’s going to be in that style.
Again, this absolutely sets the tone of the book. Whoever this Mr. Scrubb is we may deduce that he is awful because he has an awful name. Although, to be honest, I have been converted to liking the name Eustace thanks to…Eustace-the-later-years.
Maggie Stiefvater is obviously Queen of Book Beginnings. (I’m also a mild fan…is it too obvious?) Again with the IMMINENT DEATH. Apparently Maggie Stiefvater loves this style hook, and I agree: it’s catchy! Killing your own true love sounds drastic. It makes me want to know why. Is she killing him because he annoyingly steals her socks? Or is there deep mystery and intrigue beyond sock theft?
(The mystery is deeper than sock thievery, if you’re curious.)
Drama is fabulous. There’s no better beginning than the author informing the reader that all has gone to the dogs in the first sentence. Also it’s terrifically short and crispy. I really love Patrick Ness’ beginnings…you can feel the pace and tension rating of the book from THE FIRST SECOND.
Reverse psychology always worked perfectly on me as a kid. But who are we kidding? It works fine on me now.
Look me in the eye and tell me when someone say
s “Don’t look left!” that you don’t automatically look left. Call it human nature. Call it the Moriarty in us. But we just do the things we’re told not to. Lemony Snicket capitalises on this. (I went on to read about 20 of his books.)
For instance, if Sherlock where to pop onto this post and scream at you, like so:
Would you keep reading my post?
The fact that the narrator, whoever they are, is knowledgable on the psychology of monsters really intrigues me. If I had to take a guess when monsters would like to show up, I’d hesitantly say midday, because humans can be right sleepy in the middle of the day.
Which is also why, if I was taking over the world, I’d probably do it at midday when most people are tired and full of lunch.
But I’m getting off topic.
This totally lures me in with its buggy whispers. We can tell a whole lot about the book from just this opening. The narrator hears bugs…is she crazy? Yes. What does she do with these blogs she collects? Skewers them into art. Why is she hearing their whispers at all?!!
A NINE YEAR OLD is killing? What is this sad little dejected novel? I must read it. Although it kind of makes me think the book will be about a nine-year-old. It’s not. I think Lynne is 16 or so when the book really takes off.
(Um, okay, so death does feature a lot in these. But hey. Who doesn’t like high stakes? It’s thrilling and dangerous and gives you reason to root for the characters straight away. Stay alive! Don’t die!)
Oh, pfft, Percy, of course you did. Without your half-bloodness you wouldnt have met your precious Annabeth.
This grabs me because of the fabulous voice. It’s like a friend is talking to you, and everyone knows Books Are Friends. If I turned my Sherlock skills onto this sentence, too, by the way, I would deduce that being a half-blood would cause Mr. Jackson a lot of trouble. (Spoiler: it does.)
For me, a first sentence needs at least one (preferably more) of these things:
1) Intriguing, quirky, or relatable voice. (Like Percy Jackson or The Fault in Our Stars.)
2) High stakes. (Like: dying.)
3) An inkling to what the book’s going to be about. (Like Percy Jackson is about half-bloods. And Bird is about baby-sitting fails.)
4) Makes me ask a question. (Like I want to know why Blue’s killing her first love in The Raven Boys.)
I’m extremely and incredibly interested in your opinion on book beginnings, my favourite blogglings.
I want to know what YOU think makes an awesome book beginning. Do you like any of my picks? And (if you’re up to the challenge of epicness) share your favourite book beginnings i
n the comments!! Go! Go! Go!
Cait is contemplating doing a reversal of this post…worst first sentences? (Hehe…should she dare?!) This post has also reminded her of the pain of being on hiatus from Sherlock. Apparently there’s only 45,854 years until more episodes come out. Great. She quite likes shouting some of Moriarty’s wonderful lines while she cooks eggs for breakfast. This has lead to Mime being startled out of her wits. (But not as badly as the time Cait cracked an egg on Mime’s head. Legit. It happened.)