The influence of opening lines and catchy beginnings

Studious Saturday


Without a doubt one of the most important elements of a book is the opening line and first chapter. Publishers crave an impressive and memorable opening line and often base their decision on whether to move forward with a manuscript depending on how well the first few chapters are written. Likewise, a powerful beginning sets the tone for the plot and story line and, as the first point of contact with the reader, a strong connection right from the start is vital.

As first impressions are essential, I wanted to share my thoughts on a few books that had a huge impact on me as a reader due to their powerful beginnings.


Lullaby / The Perfect Nanny – Leila Slimani

The baby is dead. It only took few seconds.

Leila Slimani paints a picture of horror and chaos in the opening chapter of Lullaby (published as The Perfect Nanny in USA). Although I ended up disliking this book for many reasons, the events revealed in the first chapter were shocking enough to pique my interest and encourage me to continue reading. The details in the first chapter almost feel too explicit and unnecessary at times but setting the scene with the murder and revealing snippets of the events building up to it is a very powerful technique which I felt worked extremely well in this book.


The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle – Stuart Turton

I forget everything between footsteps.

“Anna!” I finish shouting, snapping my mouth shut in surprise. 

My mind has gone blank. I don’t know who Anna is or why I’m calling her name. I don’t even know how I got here…

The first chapter of The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is as intense and superb as the rest of the book. What makes it stand out is the precise choice of words and unique writing style that immediately transports the reader to the setting. I was impressed with so many aspects of this book and, although I read it almost over one year ago, the opening chapter stayed with me even to this today.


Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury

It was a pleasure to burn.
It was a special pleasure to see things eaten, to see things blackened and
changed…

 

The first few sentences emphasise the essence of this book by exploring the senses through the eyes of the main character. The writing is so powerful that I could almost feel the heat and blaze as I read the first chapter. It is arguably one of the most notorious opening lines in literature and rightfully so.

As a reader, I am immediately influenced by the first chapter of any book, sometimes almost subconsciously. Although I enjoy slow beginnings if the writing suits the genre of the book, unexpected opening lines or unforeseen events revealed in the first pages almost always convince me that the book I am about to read will be a hit and for that reason I will almost always prefer it to a slower beginning.

Question time

Do the first few paragraphs or chapters of a book have an impact on you as a reader? What are some of your favourite opening lines?

10 thoughts on “The influence of opening lines and catchy beginnings

  1. “To many, I was myth incarnate, the embodiment of a most superb legend, a fairy tale. Some considered me a monster, a mutation. To my great misfortune, I was once mistaken for an angel.”

    The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton

    One of my favs, for a very odd and beautiful book. The 7 1/2 Deaths has been on my list for a while – I’ll have to see how the first chapter grabs me, if it does like it did for you!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Definitely agree that the first lines and chapter can make or break the novel, with the publishers and readers alike! If the beginning is good, I’ll immediately get drawn in and probably read a lot more, but if it’s bad I’ll probably put it down, and sometimes a lot of time goes by that I even forget what I was reading, so I usually give up. 7 deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle was the best book I’ve read last year, and I remember the first chapter being the bomb! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad to see that I’m not the only one to get disinterested if the beginning of a book is slow and doesn’t seem to go anywhere. And yes, that first chapter of Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle was just amazing and it was the best book I read last year too! ❤

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I don’t mind if the beginning is slow, but it has to have some substance, to make me interested. 🙂 Seven Deaths was one of the very few books which drew me in so much I felt I was a part of the story. 😀 I can’t wait to see what Stuart Turton writes next, he’s set the bar very high. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I’m also very excited for his next book to be published! I know that he’s in the process of writing so hopefully we’ll get to read it soon and it will be just as good if not better than Evelyn Hardcastle!

        Liked by 1 person

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