Literary Openings

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Yep, I’m still chasing windmills (as supposed to chasing skirts which is what I should be doing while I’m still young-ish and fairly good looking). Ha! Who the fuck am I kidding? I have a book to finish plus I need to crank out the next one, oh and there’s that ‘slightly misanthropic’ thing so…

But this here post is not about a therapy session is about literary openings.

See much like a movie, TV show or a song. In the writing world, you’ve got to have a great opening—that something that hooks the reader.

Here are some of my favorite (recent) literary openings:

“When mother found out she was pregnant with me she took an overdose. Father gave her the pills. She needed a drama from time to time to remind her that she was still alive. The overdose didn’t work.” Dandy in the Underworld by Sebastian Horsley.

And just like that I (the reader) wants to be taken into a sure-to-be dark, perverted and twisted ride. And it is.

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‘Nobody comes to Minnesota to take their clothes off, at least as far as I know. This ain’t no nightclub. Here in the woebegone upper country, Jack Frost is a liberal, rangy sadist with ice crystals in his soul patch.’ Candy Girl by Diablo Cody.

I can’t emphasize enough how much I love Diablo Cody’s writing; she’s an erudite, sharp, funny and fearless writer. Too bad she hasn’t written another book lately. Then again, I suppose writing Hollywood screenplays pays a hell of a lot better. Sigh.

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‘I was sitting in my office, my lease had expired and McKelvey was starting eviction proceedings. It was a hellish hot day and the air conditioner was broken. A fly crawled across the top of my desk. I reached out with the open palm of my hand and send him out of the game. I wipe my hand on my right pant leg as the phone rang. I picked it up.

 “Ah yes,” I said.

“Do you read Celine?” a female voice asked. Her voice sounded quite sexy. I had been lonely for some time. Decades. Pulp by Charles Bukowski.

Tell me if his description of the demise of an unfortunate fly, the woman asking about the narrator’s reading proclivities, and the last word, doesn’t make you curious about where this narrative is going.

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‘October 16, 1859

“Men, get on your arms,” the Captain said. “We will proceed to the Ferry.” It was eight at night, an autumn Sunday, silent and dark in the Maryland Hills. A horse drawn wagon pulled up to the log house loaded it with pikes, tools, torches and gunpowder.’ Midnight Rising by Tony Horowitz.

You know that shit’s gonna go down real hard after reading that (Albeit, the phrasing near the end there is a bit awkward—an edit oversight perhaps?) regardless the writer’s got you hooked. I’m still in the process of reading this one; it’s about a little known historical figure by the name of John Brown and the raid that sparked the American Civil War.

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‘When I think of my wife, I always think of her head. The shape of it, to begin with. The first time I saw her, it was the back of her head I saw, and there was something lovely about it, the angles of it. Like a shiny, hard corn kernel or a riverbed fossil. She had what the Victorians would call a finely shaped head.’ Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn.

The Victorians had a way of telling a person’s personality traits by reading that person’s skull, it was called phrenology. A pseudo-science developed by German physician Franz Joseph Gall in 1796. It was a popular practice in the 19th century.

Unwillingly, or willingly. This opening gives us (the reader) a hint as to what lies ahead.

I can go on and on about great and interesting literary openings, but these will have to do because I’ve got to summon Sancho Panza. We’ve have some giants to skewer.

Sancho! Bring my pen and paper—err, I mean lance!

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