Just to get an idea of general opinion, I set up a poll in my building a novel blog and suggested these four opening sentences.
- As a distant crash of waves broke upon the shore, Max stood at an odd angle outside his heavy oak front door.
- Max was blind drunk and angry.
- Max swayed outside the heavy oak door, in time to the sound of the waves in the distance.
- "Fuck this" shouted Max, loudly enough to drown out the sound of waves crashing in the distance.
The most popular was: “Fuck this” shouted Max… But is it really possible to start a book with the word fuck? Firstly – is there a publisher out there that would be prepared to back this opening line? Of course, an opening line does not a novel make, but it’s pretty damn important!
How many readers would you lose due to the usage of fuck as a first word? Yes, it’s in every film and even printed in newspaper these days, and of course there’s many a novel out there that swear throughout the pages – but is it different as an opening word? Would it be applauded or be put straight down for trying to hard? Or is just that my balls have shrunk a little out of the fear of what others think?
I don’t know whether I prefer “Max was blind drunk and angry” or the “fuck this” opener. The first has less impact, less edge – and perhaps even a lot less of my voice. It’s more telling than showing, and I prefer the romanticism of the sway of the sea and the reality of one angry drunken man screaming his head of in the street. So I guess I do know really…writing this blog is clarifying it just a little!
So what was it that made me send the first draft of my novel to be doctored, with the opening line Max was blind drunk and angry. In fact, fuck this, I’ll change the first sentence and resend, and ask for a comparison. Can’t hurt, right?