by Mikhaeyla Kopievsky
I want to write a great novel. To craft worlds of complexity, develop engaging characters and tell stories that captivate, engage and inspire. I want my first page to grab you in a way that changes your reality and creates a connection that you wouldn’t want to sever, even if you could.
We’ve all heard that the first page is critical. If they read the first page, they’ll read the first scene. If they read the first scene, they’ll read the first chapter. And (if you keep that momentum up), the rest is (successful) history.
No pressure, hey?
Recently I was stuck on writing the first few paragraphs of my new novel, Elementals. Normally, I start my writing process by whatever first line pops into my head and just sort of carry it on from there. But that was always my problem – I would have an awesome premise, great opening scene, but nowhere to go after that. No plan, no roadmap. And, consequently, I have amassed a large file of started (but never finished) novels.
So this time, it was different. I pulled together a cohesive and interesting novel outline full of promise. And then sweated on what opening words would do this story justice; would capture its essence, would capture the voice and tone of this tale that, for now, only exists in my head and on a few index cards in Scrivener.
Again, no pressure, right?
My problem isn’t writer’s block – I have a thousand and one potential opening scenes that flit through my brain. My problem is that I’m looking for the soul mate of opening scenes. The one. The opening scene that you will love and that will slay you simultaneously.
I test all of the potentials out, but they never seem to live up to my ideals – they’re flawed, meh, cliched, juvenile, unoriginal, meaningless, afraid of commitment.
So where do you find ‘the one’? I went where I found all of my fictional true loves – my favourite novels. Revisiting the opening pages of these old friends and classics was (beyond being a no-brainer), a call to arms. Yes, I was inspired, but I was also challenged – in a very real “bring it on” sort of way.
Nietzsche wrote, “One repays a teacher badly, if one always remains nothing but a pupil”. Daniel San lived up to the legacy of Mr Miyagi, Luke became a Jedi Master, Simba became the Lion King, and I want to see my name, like Dostoyevsky, on one of those Penguin Classic books.
So, I checked out some of the best opening lines of literature ever, and responded to the call. It may not go down as the best opening line, but it is a much better one than those that came before.
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