Tuesday, April 26, 2011

And They're Off! - First Lines (and Paragraphs) of Books

I'm not sure what induces most people to buy books. For some, I'm sure it's the cover, maybe the back cover blurb or the title. 

All of those things are important to me, too, as a reader, but I also have a tendency to flip the book open and read the first couple of paragraphs to see if the book "sings" for me. I've been thinking about that a lot lately, because like most people, I try to be careful and make sure that what I'm buying is actually what I'll enjoy reading. And since I've been buying a lot of books, I've been a bit fixated on the openings of books (including my own since I want to make sure that I don't start to get lazy about book openings). I'm thinking about posting the first few lines of one of my books each week and working my way backwards to some of my older books. Not sure how or if that will play out, but for today, I thought I'd simply post the first lines of some books on my shelves. Here they are:

"More than a few residents of Wynette, Texas, thought Ted Beaudine was marrying beneath himself."
  -- from Call Me Irresistible by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

"I come from Des Moines. Somebody had to." -- from The Lost Continent by Bill Bryson

"Look, I didn't want to be a half-blood." -- from The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

"The year began with lunch." -- from A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle

"I was born singing. Most babies cry. I sang an aria." -- from Fairest by Gail Carson Levine

"Sam Vimes sighed when he heard the scream, but he finished shaving before he did anything about it." --
  from Night Watch by Terry Pratchett

"She was born on the night the witch tree fell." -- from Captivated by Nora Roberts

"Andie Miller sat in the reception room of her ex-husband's law office, holding on to ten years of uncashed alimony checks and a lot of unresolved rage. This is why I never came back here, she thought. Nothing wrong with repressed anger as long as it stays repressed." -- from Maybe This Time by Jennifer Crusie

And here's the first paragraph from my latest book, Riches to Rags Bride:
"Genevieve Patchett stared at the solid mahogany door of the office where she was scheduled to have the first job interview of her life. Despite being twenty-six, she had an empty resume, a lot of explaining to do and a stack of bills so high that her throat closed up every time she looked at it. And Lucas McDowell, the man who held her future and her very survival in his hands, was reputed to be a cold, hard businessman who only hired the best. She was not the best."

So...what do you look for when you pick up a book? (Confession: if I think it may be a risky book in terms of how it ends, I have been known to read the last paragraph or two just to make sure I'm not going to throw the book across the room when I'm through with it). What are the first lines of a book you either liked, hated or have read lately? Have you ever felt that those first lines betrayed you and that the rest of the book didn't live up to its beginning?

Happy Reading (and many interesting beginnings and endings)!

1 comment:

Mary Preston said...

"I come from Des Moines. Somebody had to." This line cracked me up. I don't know if it was meant to be humorous but it really appealed to me. First sentences are SO important.