Monday, February 13, 2012

“Beginning” of the Week

As I noted in my previous post on Great First Lines, the first sentence in a novel can often be its most important. But not always. Some stories need longer to develop. Still, it’s hard to underestimate the significance of the story’s opening passage. This is the “beginning” of the tale, a chance to hook the reader and persuade him or her to read more. It’s also an opportunity to set the tone for the novel and give the reader some sense of what the story will be about. And for many novels, it’s where the magic of the author’s prose takes first form.

In honor of this ever-so-important paragraph in fiction, I’m starting a new series of posts every Monday aptly titled, the “Beginning” of the Week. In it I’ll highlight the opening passage from either the prologue or first chapter of a novel in the historical or fantasy genres. Feel free to comment on the passage or simply read the words and decide for yourself if you would want to read on.

For the inaugural “beginning” of the week, I’ve chosen the first few lines of Stephen King’s fantasy masterpiece, The Gunslinger.
The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.

The desert was the apotheosis of all deserts, huge, standing to the sky for what looked like eternity in all directions. It was white and blinding and waterless and without feature save for the faint, cloudy haze of the mountains which sketched themselves on the horizon and the devil-grass which brought sweet dreams, nightmares, death. An occasional tombstone sign pointed the way, for once the drifted track that cut its way through the thick crust of alkali had been a highway. Coaches and buckas had followed it. The world had moved on since then. The world had emptied.
– Stephen King, The Gunslinger

These words began Stephen King's fantasy masterpiece.

2 comments:

BJB said...

Respectfully, I find this opening passage to be unappealing. For one thing, several of the sentences are too long. They have too many adjectives and clauses. Also, some of the vocabulary is awkward. Apotheosis -- really? In the first twenty words? Alkali? Buckas? I used to be a big fan of Stephen King. But ever since It, seems to me nobody is editing him.

Joseph Finley said...

Perhaps ... but this is a great novel. And, it's several hundred pages shorter than his current works!