A Novel’s First Line

Today I’m sharing the first line of a novel. That was already my plan before I read Andrea Lundgren’s “Crafting An Authentic Beginning” that I reblogged here yesterday.

As I have kept a list of the first lines from novels in my writer’s notebook, I have focused on the first line only. In light of Ms. Lundgren’s blog post, going forward I will consider how or if the first line portrays the overall tone of the book.

Our Souls at Night, by Kent Haruf

The first line of a novel I’m sharing today is from Our Souls at Night, by Kent Haruf:

“And then there was the day when Addie Moore made a call on Louis Waters.”

Is it acceptable to begin a sentence with a conjuction?

What initially caught my attention was the fact that this sentence began with a conjunction. Somewhere along the line, I was taught that was unacceptable; however, I have discovered that this is a myth that has hounded the English language for centuries. There are, apparently, no official English grammar rules against starting a sentence with a conjunction. I will try to put that myth to rest in my mind. Old habits are hard to break.

More importantly, it’s a great sentence

I turn my attention to the more important aspect of this first sentence. The sentence did what it was designed to do. It pulled me into the book. I immediately wanted to know who Addie Moore and Louis Waters were and why Addie visited Louis. The sentence piqued my interest. I was curious to read the next sentence.

When I look at the first sentence in Our Souls at Night, as compared with the overall tone of the novel, I conclude that the opening sentence is in complete agreement with the novel. It was a perfect way for the author to introduce us to Addie and Louis. I don’t want to spoil the story for you, so I will just say that Our Souls at Night is a story of love and comfort found later in life by a widow and a widower.

The opening sentence of Our Souls at Night plunges the reader into the middle of the story. The author could have filled several pages with backstory about Addie and Louis and built up to “the day when Addie Moore made a call on Louis Waters.” I don’t think that would have necessarily grabbed my attention like the way Mr. Haruf started the book.

A movie in the works?

Our Souls at Night was Kent Haruf’s final novel. I have read that it is being made into a movie with Jane Fonda as Addie and Robert Redford as Louis. Something to look forward to! I hope the movie won’t disappoint.

Until my next blog post, I hope you have a good book to read. If you are a writer, I hope you have some quality writing time.


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