First pages are tough. This has been driven home to me by my own struggles to come up with an opening for my YA novel that has just the right balance of action and description. Right now, writing dangerously is especially challenging and listening to my intuition even more so. Often, when I get stuck, I turn for inspiration to writers I admire. Since my first page is proving to be a major headache, I decided to look at a few openings that really grabbed me to see how the authors handled this hurdle. Here are two I came up with:
“My mother and father should have stayed in New York where they met and married and where I was born. Instead, they returned to Ireland when I was four, my brother, Malachy, three, the twins, Oliver and Eugene, barely one, and my sister, Margaret, dead and gone.”
“When I look back on my childhood I wonder how I survived at all. It was, of course, a miserable childhood: the happy childhood is hardly worth your while. Worse than the ordinary miserable childhood is the miserable Irish childhood, and worse yet is the miserable Irish Catholic childhood.”
Frank McCourt, Angela’s Ashes
“On the pleasant shore of the French Riviera, about half way between Marseilles and the Italian border, stands a large, proud, rose-coloured hotel. Deferential palms cool its flush facade, and before it stretches a short, dazzling beach. Lately it has become a summer resort of notable and fashionable people; a decade ago it was almost deserted after its English clientele went north in April. Now, many bungalows cluster near it, but when this story begins only the cupolas of a dozen old villas rotted like water lilies among the massed pines between Gausse’s des Estranges and Cannes, five miles away.”
F. Scott Fitzgerald, Tender Is the Night
What I love about both these openings is the feeling they convey of being in the hands of master storytellers. Each opening is almost a story in itself and draws you forward. That’s what I’d love to do with my novel. I’m not there yet, but I’m working hard to make my first few paragraphs pack a lot of punch. Any suggestions would be most welcome!