Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Stephen King and First Lines

I'm not quite done with The Gunslinger, but I've read enough to know that this first contact with King will keep me coming for more. I know the title has been on the blog as 'currently reading' for a month, but I only started last Friday. I may or may not have felt guilty about not reading after the guest post on TBR pile.

There's a lot still to be explained about what goes on in this novel (it doesn't hinder the story any, though), and I wouldn't be surprised if, after a few more novels from the pile and indulging in another of Kay's, I came back for the second in the Dark Tower series. I like having my questions answered!

And now...

The Quirky Thing that Makes Me Squee
The crow that says "Screw you and the horse you rode on." For some reason I thought this was hilarious. I still do. Plus I'm usually irritated by talking animals, but this crow? I love this crow.

What I Learned From King
We've all heard of the importance of first lines. This novel is filled with brilliant first-lines hook. Twice, I've glanced at the line before closing the novel, only to bite my lips at what I'd read, check the time, and decide I should go on a little more. Here, I'll throw in two examples.

Novel's first line:
The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.

 Chapter start:
The boy found the oracle, and it almost destroyed him.

These are just two, and I found them flipping around randomly. The novel is ripe with them, and though I have not read anything else by Stephen King, I'd be surprised if this wasn't true for his other novels.

First lines hook your readers and draw them in. Make them count, and you'll have someone up at 4 am because he can't put your book down.


  1. I bought this book probably a year ago from half price books, but have not read it. Now I want to read it. Even though I am literally in the middle of reading about 20 books. Please, don't get me started on another one!

    But I have a feeling I will be reading some of this before I go to bed.

    Should I say thanks. . . ?


  2. That is a fantastic first line. I read about a quarter of this, but I couldn't quite get into it. Might give it another try one day :p

  3. I think that a lot of people don't read King because they dislike the horror genre. I think this is sad, because he is a terrific writer, and we can all learn so much from reading his work. I finished all of the Tower novels, but they are really not my favorites. I love The Dark Half, Salem's Lot, and IT the best, and there are many other really good ones.

  4. I think it goes along with Chapter arcs and ending the chapter either on a cliffhanger, or an emotionally low point. Read the chapter endings of Hunger Games, Collins is brilliant with this.

    Great post.

  5. And never underestimate the power of a great closing line. I've found myself getting more excited about a stellar closing line in a chapter than some of the better opening lines. Brilliance paired with that note of finality...gives me goosebumples!

  6. Robin: I haven't read The Hunger Games yet. Yep, guilty as charged. They're on my list, though, and I'll pay attention when I get around to it.

    And Margo's right. Powerful closing lines can be as useful as opening ones to string the reader along.

    Ted: Not being attracted to horror is exactly why I waited so long to pick one of King's novels. Now I know I missed out. Also, my TBR list just got longer.

    BookOwl: I have no idea how you can read 20 books at the same time. Two is the most I can handle, and that's when one is on writing while the other is a novel.

  7. Ooh! Love this post. There are heaps of great first lines out there, but a killer last lines stays with you forever. how about the Book Thief, by Markus Zusak? Death is the narrator, and it ends with:

    I am haunted by humans.

    I saw an interview where he said that he'd had that ending in his head before anything else. And, reading the book, it just gives you shivers!

    Right, you've done the first line blog. I'm off to do one on last lines!

  8. Post done, and I linked back to your blog!

  9. Oh gosh, that's such a great line. I do think last lines deserve as much attention. Do it right, and your readers will be thinking about them day after they finish reading your book.

  10. It's a good series. I really enjoyed it but I'm not going to reveal any of what's going on with this comment.

  11. Well, if you do try those novels, I would start with either IT or Salem's Lot, as they center strongly around characters and a bit less around scariness. They are scary at times, but nothing like the terror of The Dark Half.

  12. Forgive me for barging in but whenever there's talk of Stephen King I feel the urge to speak. Have you read his On Writing? It has helped me enormously and I find that I am continually referring back to it. I've only read one of his short stories (Strawberry Spring) but my husband is a devotee.

  13. I have indeed read On Writing. It happens to be the only english book about the craft available in my local libraries. His description of the accident gave me shivers. (and the book is useful, too!)

  14. The Dark Tower Series is one of my favorites. It's good and long, and there are lots of tie-in novels, and the story-arch is so epic and the characters so real. I loved every book (even Song, which was my least favorite). I've re-read Wizard and Glass every summer for the past six years I love it so much. (and of course I love my Lane and Rebecca, who are fic characters for DT)