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 David Baldacci’s Memory Man.
First, let’s take a look at the blurb:
Amos Decker’s life changed forever–twice.
The first time was on the gridiron. A big, towering athlete, he was the only person from his hometown of Burlington ever to play in the NFL. But his career ended before it had a chance to begin. On his very first play, a violent helmet-to-helmet collision knocked him off the field forever, and left him with an improbable side effect–he can forget nothing.
The second time was at home nearly two decades later. Now a police detective, Decker returned from a stakeout one evening and entered a nightmare–his wife, young daughter, and brother-in-law had been murdered.
His family destroyed, their killer’s identity as mysterious as the motive behind the crime, and unable to forget a single detail from that horrible night, Decker finds his world collapsing around him. He leaves the police force, loses his home, and winds up on the street, taking piecemeal jobs as a private investigator when he can.
But over a year later, a man turns himself in to the police and confesses to the murders. At the same time a horrific event nearly brings Burlington to its knees, and Decker is called back in to help with this investigation. Decker also seizes his chance to learn what really happened to his family that night. To uncover the stunning truth, he must use his remarkable gifts and confront the burdens that go along with them. He must endure the memories he would much rather forget. And he may have to make the ultimate sacrifice.
On a personal note, David Baldacci is one of my favorites. He also has one of the best Masterclasses on writing if you’re looking to learn a bit from a professional. He’s definitely a master at his craft. A master of the modern thriller.
Now let’s examine the Opening Line:
“Amos Decker would forever remember all three of their violent deaths in the most paralyzing shade of blue.”
This is the part where I would normally dissect the sentence to take its individual properties under the microscope, but this isn’t really something I can cut up.
We have to take it in one quick gulp. But what are we drinking?
First, we’re meeting our protagonist, Amos Decker. What do we know about him thus far?
We know he’ll “forever” remember all three of “their” deaths.
This word, forever, will have a much more profound meaning once you learn that he has suffered from an accident giving him hyperthymesia, a medical condition where he remembers virtually everything that ever happens to him, but we don’t know this yet. Still, it’s a perfect set up for Baldacci’s story. (This isn’t a spoiler alert, it’s in the blurb. So are the three people, which we’ll talk about next.)
Who exactly died? Obviously, there were three people. How did they die? We know it involved violence. Who were they? And what is the significance of the phrase the most paralyzing shade of blue?
Again, based on the Opening Line alone, we don’t know the answers to any of these questions. But David has done his job because we want to find out.
If you want to learn more about Amos Decker, click the Barnes & Noble link.