Don’t you just love Snoopy? He has just as much guts as Madeleine L’Engle, who also parodied Edward Bulwer-Lytton, the original author of that famously melodramatic opening line.
Do you know it’s origin? Edward Bulwer-Lytton wrote that opening line in his book from 1830 entitled Paul Clifford. The entire opening line is below:
“It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents — except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.”
Honestly, that opening just makes me want to crack up a bit. According to many scholars, it is a stereotype for mushy, florid prose. It’s been parodied so many times, it’s laughable, and Madeleine L’Engle is probably one of the most famous users of that line. It’s how she opens her groundbreaking book, A Wrinkle in Time, which is one of my all time favorite books.
Opening lines can be tricky little devils. My current manuscript has had probably – oh – at least fifty different versions of opening lines/paragraphs/chapters, etc. But it has finally brought me to what I hope is my last opening line before publication. (At least, until an agent or editor gets their hands on it).
So here it is. The opening line to my middle-grade/YA/fantasy fiction novel, which is the first in a series: “The mansion was bubblegum pink.” ~ Amy Doepker
What do you think? Do you like it?
I know, I know. It’s not exactly, “Call me Ishmael,” or “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.”
However, I’m not trying to write the next Moby Dick or Pride and Prejudice. I’m just trying to be me.
I don’t think I’ll ever aspire to writing the next great American novel, simply because I think that phrase is a bunch of malarkey. So many writers have written extraordinary books that aren’t high literary, but that end up making much more of a societal impact than their literary predecessors.
I’m not trying to make a huge societal impact. It’s not that I’m not confident in my writing, I just don’t think it’ll happen.
I get very frustrated with people who turn their noses up at the different genres of writing. Many people simply don’t like fantasy fiction. And that’s okay! But that doesn’t mean it isn’t just as difficult to write as high literary prose.
I’m a simple person. I don’t try to be anything more. So no, I’m not striving to be the next Jane Austen, or Herman Melville, or J.K. Rowling, or J.R.R. Tolkien.
I’m simply me, and that’s how I am happiest.
So come on, what are your favorite opening lines? I’ll be you know a bunch that I’ve never heard of. Can you recommend any for me?
Every beginning must draw your reader into your story and, as quickly as possible, get them to suspend disbelief in your created world and accept it as “reality.”
— Elizabeth Lyon, Manuscript Makeover