That all important first line of a novel...the one I agonize over as a writer. The one that, when I pick up a book, I read to assess (along with the rest of the first page) whether I'm going to buy it or not.
But how much does it really count?
In my current novel, I spent a long time deliberating over the first line - not because it was complicated or particularly awe-inspiring but because it needed to immediately draw the reader in and establish that things had already gone awry for one of the main protagonists. The first line is literally the hook to grab your reader and pull him/her in - but really, how much time should you spend on getting it right?
It should neatly encapsulate the theme of the story to come and lead seamlessly into the first page that, as we have so often blogged about, is integral to creating a compelling (and ultimately saleable) novel.
And this the entry point can be unforgettable. I mean who can ignore the simplistic beauty of the opening to George Orwell's 1984: It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. Immediately we get a sense of mood, a sense of foreboding, and a vision of a world quite different to our own - and all in one line. Or take Ray Bradbury's first line of Fahrenheit 451: It was a pleasure to burn. and my personal favorite (maybe because this is so often true...) I have never begun a novel with more misgiving (W. Somerset Maugham, The Razor's Edge).
But sometimes I wonder, is it worth all the agony? Do you think the first line of a book is really that important? Apart from the classics, what memorable first lines have you read recently?