THE LINES THAT YANK ME INTO A STORY AND THE DIFFERENCES ACROSS GENRES
February 18, 2015
My friend and fellow author of Main Street, Jill James, blogged about reading this month. Jill got me thinking, as she usually does, about what grabs me by the throat and reels me in when I first fall in love with a book. Sometimes the throat grabbing is more of a warm smile, a heart tug, a laugh, or just a: If I don’t read this right now It’s going to occupy my thoughts all day kind of moment. That’s love for you—throat grabbing, funny, heartwarming, intriguing and sometimes damn irritating. My favorite authors evoke one or more of these emotions in the first line or two.
I know this to be theoretically true, because I keep reading. I wondered how it actually worked in practice, so this morning over my first of numerous cups of coffee, I pulled random books from random bookshelves in my house—truth be told some of them were in piles on the floor and one was leaning by the waste basket nearest my desk.
After reading the first few lines of more or less randomly selected books nearest me I found some of them “Mash-Up” rather well. Here are two of my favorites put side by side:
Here are two more that struck me funny read side by side, yet oddly similar in intent:
ROMANCE—Joan Johnston from: Texas Bride.
“It’s a disaster,” Hannah said. “Plain and simple. We’re DOOMED.”
THRILLER—Lee Child from: Gone Tomorrow.
“Suicide bombers are easy to spot.”
Here are three with religious themes:
HISTORICAL—Bernard Cornwell from: Stonehenge.
“The gods talk by signs.”
FICTION—Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett from: Good Omens.
“It was a nice day. All the days had been nice. There had been rather more than seven of them so far, and rain hadn’t been invented yet.”
YOUNG ADULT (and me)—Terry Pratchett from: Snuff.
“The goblin experience of the world is the cult or perhaps religion of the Unggue. In short, it is a remarkably complex resurrection-based religion founded on the sanctity of bodily secretions.”
And here are two that begin with a sense of immediate expectation:
HISTORICAL ROMANCE—Jennifer Haymore from: A season of seduction.
“Tonight I will be his.”
THRILLER—Steve Berry from: The Jefferson Key.
“President Andrew Jackson faced the gun aimed at his chest.”
I have enjoyed each of these books and it was the beginning that got me hooked no matter what the genre. Beginnings need to hook, if for no other reason than that’s where we start reading, but the story has to entice and entertain. The love feeling has to sustain as well. I loved most of these books, with the exception of one that was really well written, but had me skimming from about halfway through ‘till the end.
Loved them all—sans one—and yet they all begin with a different tone that when read side by side just makes me smile. Reading after all should be like being in love: funny, irritating, anticipatory, sensual, ire-inducing and ultimately an experience that leaves the reader better and fulfilled for having read—until the next time.
So what are your favorite lines? Have you noticed that similar subject matter is handled in completely different ways depending on genre and sex of the author? Do you think about this kind of “Mash-Up” or opening lines at all when you’re immersing yourself in the stories you read—and really why should you if you’re immersed? If you have a favorite, “Mash-Up”, please share, I’d love to experience it!
Happy Reading, and for those of you who write as well, may your words shine brightly and be received with love!