Opening Lines: Girl at War by Sara Nović

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 Sara Novic’s Girl at War.

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First, let’s look at the blurb:

Zagreb, 1991. Ana Jurić is a carefree ten-year-old, living with her family in a small apartment in Croatia’s capital. But that year, civil war breaks out across Yugoslavia, splintering Ana’s idyllic childhood. Daily life is altered by food rations and air raid drills, and soccer matches are replaced by sniper fire. Neighbors grow suspicious of one another, and Ana’s sense of safety starts to fray. When the war arrives at her doorstep, Ana must find her way in a dangerous world.
New York, 2001. Ana is now a college student in Manhattan. Though she’s tried to move on from her past, she can’t escape her memories of war—secrets she keeps even from those closest to her. Haunted by the events that forever changed her family, Ana returns to Croatia after a decade away, hoping to make peace with the place she once called home. As she faces her ghosts, she must come to terms with her country’s difficult history and the events that interrupted her childhood years before.

Now, let’s examine her Opening Line:

“The war in Zagreb began over a pack of cigarettes.”

Yet another hilarious opening line that uses irony to grab the reader’s attention.

It’s a short line, but there are a few things here that make it a great opener.

First, we have the Narrator’s voice. It’s just a funny line.

Then, we have the line itself. A war in Zagreb was started over a pack of cigarettes.

What kind of war was it? There’s a movie called War of the Roses which describes the war/battle between a couple going through a bitter divorce trying to get their spouse to leave their shared home.

Sure, we know the blurb talks about a civil war in Yugoslavia, but is this the same war that started over a pack of cigarettes, or is there a war within the war?

You can’t read that line and not want to find out how a war started over something as stupid as a pack of cigarettes.

If you want to find out exactly what happened during the war, click the Barnes & Noble link.

Opening Lines: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

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 Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.

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First, let’s look at the blurb:

As the Bennets prepare their five grown daughters to enter into society, each shows personality traits that illuminate their future prospects as wives. Jane, the oldest, is the most demure and traditional, and Lydia, the youngest, the most headstrong and impulsive. Attention centers on haughty second-born Elizabeth, and her blossoming relationship with the dashing but aloof Fitzwilliam Darcy. Adversaries at first in the endless rounds of balls, parties, and social gatherings, they soon develop a grudging respect for one another that blossoms into romance when each comes to appreciate the tender feelings that course beneath the veneer of their propriety and reserve. 

Now, let’s examine the Opening Line:

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”

This is another example where the author’s voice makes us want to read more and learn more about what’s going on. (Refer to Opening Lines: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis.)

Let’s break this down.

“It is a truth universally acknowledged…”

This is obviously something that has been proved true–many times over–that it is now considered to be fact.

“…that a single man in possession of a good fortune…”

Now we know this “truth” concerns single, wealthy men.

“…must be in want of a wife.”

Since this wealthy man is rich and single, he must be in want of a wife.

This is a great line because this “truth” is obviously an opinion, but the voice of the narrator compels us to find out why they believe this.

We want to find out who this person is that considers this universally acknowledged statement as fact. Why do they believe this? Is it because they know this man? Do they know other wealthy men that were single and in want of wives? And what is to come of this single, wealthy man that we know we’ll soon be reading out.

If you want to find out about this mystery man and see if there was any truth to this statement, click on the Barnes & Noble link.

Opening Lines: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis

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 C.SLewis’ The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

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First, let’s look at the blurb:

Narnia…the world of wicked dragons and magic spells, where the very best is brought out of even the worst people, where anything can happen (and most often does)…and where the adventure begins. The Dawn Treader is the first ship Narnia has seen in centuries. King Caspian has built it for his voyage to find the seven lords, good men whom his evil uncle Mizaz banished when he usurped the throne. The journey takes Edmund, Lucy, and their cousin Eustace to the Eastern Islands, beyond the Silver Sea, toward Aslan’s country at the End of the World.

Now let’s examine the Opening Line:

“There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.”

If you’ve read my blog before, you’ll know that I say a writer needs to make the reader ask questions–based on this opening sentence–so that they will continue to read the story.

I will add, sometimes, the author’s voice can be a great driving force to keep the reader going, with or without those questions.

In this opener, C.S. Lewis infuses enough humor to make us wonder, who is Eustace Clarence Scrubb?

Obviously, this name is so bad that when Lewis adds, “he almost deserved it,” he is implying that Eustace himself is also bad.

While this line is humorous, we still ask ourselves, “What was so bad about Eustace Clarence Scrubb that he almost deserved this horrible name?

If you want to find out, click on the Barnes & Noble link.

Opening Lines: Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton

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 Edith Wharton’s Ethan Frome.

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First, let’s look at her blurb:

Set against the frozen waste of a harsh New England winter, Edith Wharton’s Ethan Frome is a tale of despair, forbidden emotions, and sexual tensions, published with an introduction and notes by Elizabeth Ammons in Penguin Classics. Ethan Frome works his unproductive farm and struggles to maintain a bearable existence with his difficult, suspicious, and hypochondriac wife, Zeenie. But when Zeenie’s vivacious cousin enters their household as a ‘hired girl’, Ethan finds himself obsessed with her and with the possibilities for happiness she comes to represent. 

Now, let’s examine the Opening Line:

“I had the story, bit by bit, from various people, and, as generally happens in such cases, each time it was a different story.”

This is such a great opening line. I think it could be used in a variety of books. I picture it in a suspense novel, uttered by a detective. Or the horror genre, or comedy, or romance. It’s just that good.

Let’s break it down.

“I had the story…”

There’s a story. There’s always a story.

“…bit by bit, from various people…”

Okay, we’re piecing a story together. We don’t have the whole story, yet. But several people were either involved or witnessed whatever has happened.

“…and, as generally happens in such cases, each time it was a different story.”

Here’s where it gets interesting. The narrator is collecting this story from these witnesses, but no one has the same story.

What is the story?

Why is it different? And more importantly, why does it keep changing?

If you want to find out what the story is, click the Barnes & Noble link.