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— Haruki Murakami, first sentence of

First Sentences for Network Marketing: How To Quickly Get Prospects On Your Side

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Can You Guess The Classic Novel From Its First Sentence

The Peripheral has two point-of-view characters—and so the book speaks in two different voices. When you compare the novel’s first sentence with the opening sentence from the second chapter, which is the top of the other point-of-view-character’s thread, you’re suddenly in a different kind of language.

In any case, the first sentence is the handshake, on either side of the writer-reader divide. The reader shakes hands with the writer. The writer has already had to shake hands with the unknown. Assuming both have heard the click, we’ve got it going on.

Beyond headlines the first sentence dominates.

  • Tommy says:

    I thought that was a week opening sentence for a piece on opening sentences. Since she later comes at the issue from the stance of readers, she could have said something personally contemplative like:

    “Why have I read thousands of first sentences, but only hundreds of books?”

    or more generally appealing:

    “In shops around the world books are being judged by their covers and writers are being judged by their first sentences.”

    or something ironic:

    “How often do you not read past the first sentence?”

  • Thanks Big Al, now I'm off to test some of my first sentence ideas!

    When the reader first encounters this, it’s weird, and not entirely translatable. Yet it helps situate us in place. The phrasing of it is not formal English, not even formal American English. It’s colloquial American. It places this character you yet haven’t met in an American tradition. (The first sentence of Huckleberry Finn does something similar, though for its day it did something infinitely more radical than what I’m doing here.)

    How many people grew up in San Diego? How many people have lived in multiple international cities? Millions! So, those statements are not differentiating enough to be in the first sentence. Something like this would have been better for Jane: