Seeking attention

When cats want attention they know how to go about getting it. For writers, it’s a bit harder. We can’t just slink up to our readers and start rubbing ourselves against their legs. (Not often anyway.)

We can use pictures – of cats or anything else we fancy – on our covers. In fact a good cover is pretty much an essential unless you’re already such a household name that people will pick up your book whatever it looks like.

After that though, it’s all down to words. And we’ve got to hook our readers as quick as we can or, like nervous fish, they’ll swim away in search of something more appetising.

Every good book needs a solid concept, involving plot, characters you can believe in and a resolution that excites a reaction from the reader (hopefully satisfaction in some form or another).

But none of those are any good unless you can get your reader past the first line, through the opening paragraph and beyond that all-so-important page one. First lines can be about place, action or personality, told in the first person or the third. But they must grab attention if you’re going to draw the prey into your story’s web.

I was just looking online at various surveys of classic opening lines and came across this one:

“It was the afternoon of my eighty-first birthday, and I was in bed with my catamite when Ali announced that the archbishop had come to see me.”

I’m currently working on the beginning of my next novel. I doubt if I’ll manage anything to equal Anthony Burgess but I know that opening is oh so important. Any other favourite opening lines out there?


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