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 Stephen King’s IT.
First, let’s take a look at the blurb:
Welcome to Derry, Maine. It’s a small city, a place as hauntingly familiar as your own hometown. Only in Derry the haunting is real.
They were seven teenagers when they first stumbled upon the horror. Now they are grown-up men and women who have gone out into the big world to gain success and happiness. But the promise they made twenty-eight years ago calls them reunite in the same place where, as teenagers, they battled an evil creature that preyed on the city’s children. Now, children are being murdered again and their repressed memories of that terrifying summer return as they prepare to once again battle the monster lurking in Derry’s sewers.
Now, let’s examine his Opening Line:
“The terror, which would not end for another twenty-eight years, –if it ever did end–began, so far as I know or can tell, with a boat made from a sheet of newspaper floating down a gutter swollen with rain.”
There’s a reason he’s called the King of Horror. Stephen King has many books with great openings, but I chose IT because of how well-crafted this line is.
Let’s break it down.
Dictionary.com defines terror as intense, sharp, overmastering fear. Nuff said.
“…which would not end for another twenty-eight years, –if it ever did end…”
(As I state in each blog, in case you’re just now tuning in, the purpose of an opening line is to make the readers ask questions. They need to question what’s going on so that they can find out the answers by reading the rest of the book. And yes, you have to do this on line one.)
Now we know that this super frightening event/thing/experience/person/clown will reign for at least 28 more years, then it would end. Then King adds: “if it ever did end.” What does this mean? Why would he say that the terror would end in 28 years, and then contradict or at least correct himself by saying, if it ever did end. Why wouldn’t end? And what is this terror?
“…began, so far as I know or can tell, with a boat made from a sheet of newspaper floating down a gutter swollen with rain.”
And this is why I picked this Opening Line! How great is this?
We have a terror, a timeline, and now we know how it began, according to the narrator. Look at how he took the most innocent and childish event to start the terror’s reign: a paper boat floating down a gutter swollen with rain.
This is one of the bests from one of the bests.
Why would a terror begin, that may or may not end in 28 years, by a paper boat floating down a gutter? How could this even be possible? What’s in the gutter? How could a paper boat do anything, aside from floating?
These are just a few of the questions that this perfectly crafted Opening Line elicits that makes us want to know so much more. If you want to pick up a copy of this for yourself, click the Barnes & Noble link.