Tag Archives: Virginia Woolf

The Pressure of Opening Lines.

Recently, during a weekly on-line author chat with the publisher and editors of The Wild Rose Press, the topic up for discussion was how to hook a reader from the very first line/page of your book. It’s important to establish this hook because the reader spends on average 3 seconds deciding whether or not to buy the book. If you’ve only got 3 seconds – or less (Egads!) – you need something that’s got WOW FACTOR all over it – be it a great opening line or paragraph. You must engage the reader and compel them by doing so to purchase the book. I know for myself I have picked books up at the bookstore, read the back blurb and been intrigued enough to read the first few lines. Many times I have not purchased the book because the hype in the back didn’t translate to the story on the page. The hook was more a jab ( heehee) and didn’t land well with me.

Can you tell I watched Rocky last night? Sheesh!

Anyway…this got me to thinking: what are some of the most memorable lines in books?

Google and Wikipedia are quick, fun tools that have lists compiled for every conceivable thing. So I typed into a search, Best Opening Lines in Books and was virtually assaulted (get it?!) with book lines.

Here are some I recognized:

  • “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”—Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina 
  • “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” – Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice
  • Call me Ishmael – Herman Melville, Moby-Dick 1851
  • It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen – George Orwell, 1984 ( 1949)
  • Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself. – Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway ( 1925)
  • It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn’t know what I was doing in New York. – Sylvia Plath, the Bell Jar ( 1963)
  • In the town, there were two mutes and they were always together, – Carson McCullers, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter ( 1940)
  • As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a monstrous verminous bug. – Franz Kafka, Metamorphosis ( 1915)

Everyone of these opening sentences immediately draws the reader into the story by giving them something to think about and a question or two to ask.

In the case of Moby-Dick, Call me Ishmael are three of the most recognized words in literature. Who is Ishmael? Why are we to call him that – does he really have another name but just wants to use Ishmael? Who is he talking to? These natural queries make you want to get answers to satisfy your curiosity. And the way to satisfy that curiosity is to…read the book!

In the 1984 line…. the clocks were striking thirteen… the reader immediately knows something is off because clocks DON’T ( as a rule) strike thirteen. Why are they doing so in this story? And what is the significance of them striking thirteen times? Is something going to happen? Or did it already and the thirteen is the announcement of it? Inquiring minds want to know.

Thinking back on the first lines I’ve written, I know in my heart some of them haven’t been filled with the wow factor – something I will work on arduously in 2015. With the plethora of books to choose from on-line, in bookstores and the library, a writer has to stake their claim on the reader’s attention IMMEDIATELY. No small task, but a worthwhile endeavor. And the payoff is a memorable book ( and a sale!)

Here’s the first line of my new release THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE HOME, available right now!!


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Filed under Characters, Contemporary Romance, Literary characters, Romance, Romance Books

When the HEA, isn’t….

With the sad news of Robin William’s passing, I’m reflecting today on what makes each person’s happily ever after ending, and why, when it seems like someone has everything, they still have despair in their hearts.

I know he suffered from deep depression. My background, as some of you may  know, is in psychiatric nursing. I’ve been around deeply depressed people for most of my life both professionally and personally, and I know the real horror when someone feels there is no hope left and suicide is the only option to end  the pain and suffering.

Mr. Williams was a man who, on the outside, appeared to everything his heart could desire. An icon status career, multiple professional accolades and awards, three beautiful, loving children and a spouse who adored him. His talent was beyond description. He was the end goal every comedian wanted for themselves: talented, rich, respected, successful.

Why then, wasn’t  this enough?

Or, was it too much?

Was it, in fact, too much to deal with? Having a stellar career,  constantly being  in the public eye, never knowing who really likes you for you and not because you’re famous? I tend to think when people have achieved such a pinnacle of success the only place they feel for them to go now is downward. That thought alone can spark a depression that is biting.

Actors aren’t the only people who are held to levels the average mortal isn’t.The list of iconic writers who have killed themselves because of depression is a long one. It includes, but isn’t limited to, John Kennedy Toole Sylvia Plath, Virginia Woolf, Ernest Hemingway, Hunter S. Thompson, This is a short list of 20th century writers who found the path to death easier than dealing with life. Unfortunately, a Google search will give you many – too many – more.

We never really know what goes on in another person’s mind. We can try to walk in their shoes and attempt to understand what they are going through, but we will never know the true sense of what they feel, experience, and fear.

Happily ever afters occur in books, Romances,in particular. But in real life, the ever after is fraught with sometimes insurmountable  life situations and concerns.

If you know someone who is depressed or suffering from depression-like symptoms, extend a hand, mentally and physically. Sometimes, the time frame between a person acting on their thoughts and being helped is a millisecond.

Everyone deserves their HEA, in fiction and real life.

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Filed under Author, Contemporary Romance, Life challenges, research