What makes a story capture a reader? Many people say they read the first sentence and that was that. They hurried to the checkout counter to purchase the book.
First sentences are all important regardless of whether you're writing fiction or nonfiction, short or long. Many readers and authors have favorite first lines. I know I do - those sentences that sing with inner music, sentences that intrigue, sentences that piqued my curiosity.
Here are some of my favorites. Some of these opening lines are from classics; some from contemporary work.
There are some men who enter a woman's life and screw it up forever. (One for the Money by Janet Evanovich)
It is customary for those who wish to gain the favour of a prince to endeavour to do so by offering him gifts of those things which they hold most precious, or in which they know him to take especial delight. (The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli, Letter from Machiavelli to Lorenzo the Magnificent, son of Piero di Medici. After spending several hours in the Medici Palace in Firenze last summer, this really resonates with me.)
The village of Holcomb stands on the high wheat plains of western Kansas, a lonesome area that other Kansans call "out there." (In Cold Blood by Truman Capote)
Last night I dreamt I went to Mandeley again. (Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier)
With the woman on his mind and a deep uneasiness in his heart, Spencer Grant drove through the glistening night, searching for the red door. (Dark Rivers of the Heart by Dean Koontz)
It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn’t know what I was doing in New York. (The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath)
I never knew her in life. (The Black Dahlia by James Ellroy)
Cannery Row in Monterey in California is a poem, a stink, a grating noise, a quality of light, a tone, a habit, a nostalgia, a dream. (Cannery Row by John Steinbeck)
Nobody was really surprised when it happened, not really, not at the subconscious level where savage things grow. (Carrie by Stephen King)
Death drove a green Lexus. (Dean Koontz)
I have just returned from a visit to my landlord - the solitary neighbour that I shall be troubled with. (Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte)
It was my devil's own temper that brought me to grief, my temper and a skill with weapons born of my father's teaching. (Sackett's Land by Louis L'Amour)
It was the best of times; it was the worst of times. (A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens)
Tune in Tomorrow
Tomorrow, I'll take some of these and tell you why I think they work. In the meantime, why do you think they work? Do you have a favorite hook sentence of your own or someone else's?