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Posts Tagged ‘Charles Dickens’

“Call me Ishmael.”
– Herman Melville,
Moby Dick

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, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way—in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.
– Charles Dickens,
A Tale of Two Cities

Here we have two of the most famous literary first lines in the English language (and quite possibly both the shortest and longest). First lines are first impressions, and we’ve all heard that a great first line is the best way to hook readers. But a first line can also do more, as Ginger Rue points out in this post at Smack Dab in the Middle, about one of the best first lines that most people have never read but will immediately recognize.

That brings us to the point that a well-crafted first line can reach beyond the readers to connect with the wider culture. A great many people who’ve never read either Moby Dick or A Tale of Two Cities can identify those opening lines. So when you’re working on your first lines, don’t just think about how they can engage the audience; think also about how they can project what – or who – the story is truly about.

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