Opening Lines: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

This is the blog where we dissect the opening sentences of popular works of fiction. Few people outside of the writing community know how much blood, sweat, and tears go into crafting the perfect Opening Line; and for that reason, I want to bring attention to the incredible work that a writer puts into these first few words. Today we will examine Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One.

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First, let’s take a look at the blurb:

In the year 2045, reality is an ugly place. The only time Wade Watts really feels alive is when he’s jacked into the OASIS, a vast virtual world where most of humanity spends their days.

When the eccentric creator of the OASIS dies, he leaves behind a series of fiendish puzzles, based on his obsession with the pop culture of decades past. Whoever is first to solve them will inherit his vast fortune – and control of the OASIS itself.

Then Wade cracks the first clue. Suddenly he’s beset by rivals who’ll kill to take this prize. The race is on – and the only way to survive is to win.

Now, let’s examine his Opening Line:

“Everyone my age remembers where they were and what they were doing when they first heard about the contest.”

That’s a really great opener.

Let’s break this down a bit.

First we have, “Everyone my age remembers where they were and what they were doing…”

This implies a big deal. It doesn’t matter how old the person is that is saying this, if you hear it, you know they are about to tell you about something very significant.

It would be like me saying, “I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when the Twin Towers fell.”

Or an older generation saying, “I remember where I was and what I was doing when Kennedy was shot,” or “I remember where I was and what I was doing when Elvis died.”

These types of events are so significant that they leave a lasting impact on the memory.  We, as readers, know that with this type of phrasing, something big is coming.

Next we read, “…when they first heard about the contest.”

So the big thing has to do with a contest. As always, a great Opening Line makes us ask questions. In this case, we are left wondering, “What contest?” We also want to know why this contest is such a big deal? Typically a contest rewards the winner with a prize. Is it the prize that’s so important or the contest itself? Either way, we want to find out.

For these reasons alone, Ready Player One has a great Opening Line.

To read more or purchase this book, click the Barnes & Noble link.

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Opening Lines: Gunslinger Girl by Lyndsay Eli

Every writer knows that they have to capture the reader with an engaging opening line. For aspiring authors, the pressure isn’t just contained to the John Q. Public, but also the illustrious Gatekeepers of the writing world: Literary Agents. If you’ve ever written a book and tried to get it published, you know all about the horrors of impressing an agent with the dreaded query letter. Add to that the stress of pulling them into the world you’ve created, the world you’ve spent months in, if not years; a world they will never see if you don’t hook them with your Opening Lines. Because they live in a different world; they live in the real world…of publishing. In this Blog, we will examine the opening lines of published works.

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For today’s blog, we will examine the Opening Lines of Lyndsay Eli’s Gunslinger Girl. But first, here’s her blurb:

Seventeen-year-old Serendipity “Pity” Jones inherited two things from her mother: a pair of six shooters and perfect aim. She’s been offered a life of fame and fortune in Cessation, a glittering city where lawlessness is a way of life. But the price she pays for her freedom may be too great…

In this extraordinary debut from Lyndsay Ely, the West is once again wild after a Second Civil War fractures the U.S. into a broken, dangerous land. Pity’s struggle against the dark and twisted underbelly of a corrupt city will haunt you long after the final bullet is shot.

Her Opening Line: “They dragged in the dead scrounger in the fade of the afternoon, tied to the last truck in the convoy.”

Wow!

This is a great visual, and it leaves me wondering, what’s going on here? This is a great example of an opening line that leaves the reader wanting to know more about what’s happening in this scene. Without reading any more of her first paragraph, we have a vivid description of something very sinister that’s going on. We have virtually all of the top W’s here.

WHO? Who is the dead person?

WHAT? What happened that caused them to die?

WHEN? We do know that it’s late in the afternoon.

WHERE? Where are they dragging this person?

WHY? Why is the scrounger being dragged in the first place?

Let’s take a closer look.

“They dragged in the dead scrounger in the fade of the afternoon…” Here we have the first part of the sentence that implies two things:

A. We have a dead person. Not just any deceased person, but one who survives by foraging or sponging off of others–a scrounger. We don’t know enough about what’s going on here to make any significant assumptions about this person, but we do know the narrator is calling them a scrounger, suggesting that this is a common name used for these types of people. This makes the reader ask, what happened to this person? How did they die? Why are they being called a scrounger? Are there other scroungers?

B. They’re being dragged in. This begs us to question where “in” is. Is it a cemetery? Is it a town? Is it a military base? Why are they being dragged in the first place?

Then we have the next part of the line that takes us down the same dark road that the truck is traveling on. This is the part that effectively sends shivers up our spines.

“…tied to the last truck in the convoy.”

HOLY SMOKES!

They are driving a truck, which is part of a convoy, so we know there are several trucks all going to the same place, but the last truck is dragging a corpse. Maybe it’s tied with rope. Maybe the scrounger’s wrist is handcuffed to its bumper. I don’t know, but I want to. And how long have they been dragging this person? Does this scrounger even have any skin left on their body? (Just try Googling “Severe Road Rash” if you’re having trouble imagining the scene here.) What kind of sick people do this? Who is witnessing this? Are there kids around who might be subjected to watching this body being eaten and destroyed by either gravel, dirt, or pavement?

If you want to know more about Pity’s role in this crazy, crazy world, click the Barnes & Noble link and add it to your cart. You won’t regret it!

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