Great Opening Paragraphs


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Of course there are many possible candidates, but for language, punctuation, alliteration, cadence and sheer creepiness, it's hard to beat this.

“No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream. Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against its hills, holding darkness within; it had stood so for eighty years and might stand for eighty more. Within, walls continued upright, bricks met neatly, floors were firm, and doors were sensibly shut; silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone.”

~Shirley Jackson, The Haunting of Hill House
Another great one by Shirley Jackson...

“My name is Mary Katherine Blackwood. I am eighteen years old, and I live with my sister Constance. I have often thought that with any luck at all, I could have been born a werewolf, because the two middle fingers on both my hands are the same length, but I have had to be content with what I had. I dislike washing myself, and dogs, and noise. I like my sister Constance, and Richard Plantagenet, and Amanita phalloides, the death-cup mushroom. Everyone else in our family is dead.”

~We Have Always Lived in the Castle

It's been said of Jackson that she was incapable of writing a bad sentence. She's the forgotten woman of American letters. Everybody knows "The Lottery," which, when it appeared in The New Yorker in 1948, was the recipient of more hate mail than any other short story in the magazine's history. The record still stands. Many readers cancelled their subscriptions. Otherwise, Jackson has been roundly dismissed as no more than a writer of Gothic horror, which isn't true. Much has been made of the perceived outrageousness of certain rebellious female authors of the 50s, especially Sylvia Plath and Ann Sexton. But I doubt either of them ever got death threats over their poems. Jackson wasn't rebellious externally, but internally she was just as much a mess and had many of the same problems juggling what was expected of her as a good 50s mother and her writing.
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probably does not center with the post, but I really like the introductions to the chapters of American gods, each chapter begins with the story of an episode relating to a certain deity, a certain population and its relative landing in the United States, or a mythological event, each introduction differs from the story of the novel, it is a story in itself.

I don't know how Neil Gaman does, he has written many stories or comics, novels for the little ones, fairy tales, stories like American gods without restraints.
they have also drawn successful TV series from comics.

Coraline which is a fairy tale of a very nice book is a beautiful cartoon like those of tim burton.

this from american gods but it is not one of the introductions I was saying.
I don't have them in English, I don't know.

“I can believe things that are true and things that aren't true and I can believe things where nobody knows if they're true or not.

I can believe in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny and the Beatles and Marilyn Monroe and Elvis and Mister Ed. Listen - I believe that people are perfectable, that knowledge is infinite, that the world is run by secret banking cartels and is visited by aliens on a regular basis, nice ones that look like wrinkled lemurs and bad ones who mutilate cattle and want our water and our women.

I believe that the future sucks and I believe that the future rocks and I believe that one day White Buffalo Woman is going to come back and kick everyone's ass. I believe that all men are just overgrown boys with deep problems communicating and that the decline in good sex in America is coincident with the decline in drive-in movie theaters from state to state.
Start is this, start page 1

Part One: Shadows

Chapter One

The boundaries of our country, sir? Why sir, on the north we are bounded by the Aurora Borealis, on the east we are bounded by the rising sun, on the south we are bounded by the procession of the Equinoxes, and on the west by the day of judgement.

-The American Joe Miller’s Jest Book

Shadow had done three years in prison. He was big enough and looked don't-fuck-with-me enough that his biggest problem was killing time. So he kept himself in shape, and taught himself coin tricks, and thought a lot about how much he loved his wife.

The best thing-in Shadow's opinion, perhaps the only good thing-about being in prison was a feeling of relief. The feeling that he'd plunged as low as he could plunge and he'd hit bottom. He didn't worry that the man was going to get him, because the man had got him. He was no longer scared of what tomorrow might bring, because yesterday had brought it.
this is a quote, I don't remember where.
“Fox was here first, and his brother was the wolf. Fox said, people will live forever. If they die they will not die for long. Wolf said, no, people will die, people must die, all things that live must die, or they will spread and cover the world, and eat all the salmon and the caribou and the buffalo, eat all the squash and all the corn. Now one day Wolf died, and he said to the fox, quick, bring me back to life. And Fox said, No, the dead must stay dead. You convinced me. And he wept as he said this. But he said it, and it was final. Now Wolf rules the world of the dead and Fox lives always under the sun and the moon, and he still mourns his brother.”
― Neil Gaiman, American Gods
Once upon a time, in a land far, far away........ :ROFLMAO:
Once upon a time, In a fictional land called new yirk city .

Snoball, sorry, you reminded me of the beginning of Fables, I think the only comic I've read every issue.
fantastic cartoon.
among the most beautiful things
but maybe you mentioned this. each chapter began like this, it could only start there, it always began by telling a fairy tale of the protagonists of the most famous fairy tales and that changed a little from there
I'm surprised no one has mentioned this. It doesn't get much better.

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”

Of course there are also one-sentence great openers. Two of the most evocative first lines in American and British literature--

"Call me Ishmael."

"Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again."
musket, thanks for the wonderful post and examples, great quotes.

I was thinking that King and Dickens are probably my favorite authors (although I have only read a few books about King, a couple of his best known masterpieces than him, however I thought that every line takes and from the beginning),
instead a beginning came to mind, that of nicholas nickbley by Dickens, because he remained impressed on me as one of those that struck me the most, he starts with ironic and beautiful verses, then immediately the blow you do not expect, scenerio that it changes immediately like the atmosphere, but writing between drama and irony, when it seems too bad then the light arrives with him anyway, however the premise remained to me that made me ask and now, what will happen.

and the Dickens novels that I have read are really beautiful and this remained particularly with me, I had read the short Christmas stories, then I know this, oliver twist and Davi Copperfield, perhaps I confused the beginning of NIckleby with Copperfild as beauty or both cmq capture, Copperfild thinking about it is the most epic, poetic and captivating with great grip. I miss others
Great hopes I have not read it but I saw the films which were very beautiful, I missed The Pickwick Papers: I know there was a radio and even television drama of the 60s with good actors and director but I never recovered it .

Even A Tale of Two Cities I don't know him but then it must be incredible too.
Stephen King, when he's good, is a much better writer than highbrow critics think he is. Unfortunately, when he isn't good--and he hasn't been good for quite some time--he's bad indeed.

The opening paragraph of IT, his sprawling mess of a masterpiece, perhaps the best evocation of growing up ostracized in America in the Eisenhower era ever written...

“The terror, which would not end for another 28 years--if it ever did end--began, so far as I know or can tell, with a boat made from a sheet of newspaper floating down a gutter swollen with rain.”

That, my friends, is what you call a great hook.
I very much agree with your assessment of Stephen King! (Oh the dissapointment of how "the Gunslinger" panned out....)

An opening line that caused quite a stir in its day was written by Halldór Laxness in his book "Brekkukótsannáll" (For some unfathomable reason titled "The fish can sing" in the english translation) ;

Vitur maður hefur sagt að næst því að missa móður sína sé fátt hollara ungum börnum en missa föður sinn.

This translates as ; A wise man once said that next to losing its mother, there is nothing more healthy for a child than to lose the father.
Yep about The Dark Tower. The last book was a travesty and indeed a huge disappointment to those constant readers who had plowed through the rest. The series started falling apart after the first three books. I think King just wanted to get it over with.

King has an extraordinary ability with characters. He can turn cardboard into gold. All the kids in IT are cliches. The fattest kid in school, the girl from the wrong side of the tracks, the only black kid in town, the studious Jewish kid, the wiseass four eyes kid, the kid with a disability but great leadership qualities, the hypochondriac kid with the overprotective mother. Yet the Losers Club seems completely real. Same with the JD kids. The kids as adults are a little less convincing, but still work. People consistently fail to understand the real ending. Too bad there will never be a great film version. At least the mini-series tried to stay true to the book.

I can see why that line would be controversial.
Yeah, I am one of those, read the first books before the big hiatus set in.

I read somewhere in an interview with King that he wrote an ending after the first book, alledgedly he lost it from the back of his motorbike. He said it didn't matter as he thought it was garbage anyway. I think it could hardly have been any worse than what he made of it decades later, and who knows, maybe a lot better....

I also always admired his way with characters, no matter how weird and supernatural their circumstances they feel and react like real people. But I have long stopped reading his newer work.
Yes Musket, wonderful IT, incredible those opening lines, thinking about it puts the creeps, the part with them Kids is the most beautiful but the whole book kept glued, it's the longest book I've read but it thrilled until the end, yes, beginning , the impervious yellow.
chills. so many incredible moments, now I can think of Beverly, at home, when she talks about her father.
it and shaning of her the masterpieces of her that I have read and I like very much.

you are also right about the movie, the most beautiful tv movie of the 90s
Just as there are many bloopers in the book (was it Mike or Ben who had a scar on his stomach from the werewolf's claws, and which school did Mike attend?), there's a big one in the mini-series--last time I looked, Jewish graves weren't adorned with crosses.

Yep, his newer work isn't worth it. He can be truly self-indulgent. His insertion of himself into The Dark Tower didn't work. The "uncut" version of The Stand has no advantage over the original. Really, the less of Frannie Goldsmith's diary the better. Molly Ringwald was just as annoying in the mini-series.

He's threatened to retire many times. Maybe he should. But let's face it, he could sign his name on a roll of toilet paper and it would become an instant #1 New York Times Best Seller.
A great one-line opening hook from Peter Straub's Ghost Story.

"What's the worst thing you've ever done?"

(Italics his.)
"East of my home, the long ridge lies across the skyline like the low hull of a submarine. Above it, the eastern sky is bright with reflections of distant water, and there is a feeling of sails beyond land. Hill trees mass together in a dark-spired forest, but when I move towards them they slowly fan apart, the sky descends between, and they are solitary oaks and elms, each with its own wide territory of winter shadow. The calmness, the solitude of horizons lures me towards them, through them, and on to others. They layer the memory like strata."

~J.A. Baker, The Peregrine
yes, of the new ones I was reading the sequel to The Shining,
initiatives like this on the one hand made me very curious, who knows what will say, if there were open scenarios that he wanted to close or explain,
on the other hand the question of whether to read it (if anything it is more a commercial idea than a need for writing), if I will like it or if I will think that the former is perfect and I prefer to think about that.
A great one-line opening hook from Peter Straub's Ghost Story.

"What's the worst thing you've ever done?"

(Italics his.)
That reminds me of...

"What is the most terrifying thing that has ever happened to you? Did it involve a car? Was it on a boat? Did an animal do it? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then I am not surprised. Cars crash, boats sink, and animals are just scary. Why not do yourself a favor and stay away from these things."

-Miranda July, from The Shared Patio
"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."

~ Anthony Burgess, Earthly Powers