I’m a sucker for short opening sentences. I admit it. Give me a sentence that is less than ten words, pack it with just enough information to make me want to keep reading, and I am a happy camper.
It’s easier to say than to do. Writers love words, after all, and every writer is always tempted to add just a few more words–a little more explanation, just one more adjective or adverb, an extra clause to make things clear–to anything they write. See, I did it right there. But adjectives and adverbs, clauses and explanations can sometimes be like salt on food: a little bit improves the taste, but too much can ruin the meal.
That is why it takes a special kind of self-confidence and skill to start a book with a sentence that is short and sweet. We should recognize authors when they can do it with style.
Here are two examples:
“Nicholas Flamel is dying.”
Four words. That’s right, four words packed with urgency and interest. Can you stop reading after that? Now check out this one:
“Look, I didn’t want to be a half-blood.”
The Lightning Thief
Yes, it’s true that Mr Riordan used twice as many words, eight instead of four. But look what he accomplished: from those eight simple words we know that Percy is something called a half-blood (what is that?), that he has something of an attitude (my life is more of a burden than you think), and that he feels the need to get our attention (“Look”).