26 February 2007

How to hook a reader.

The Gunslinger: The Dark Tower
My daughter and I have started listening to the aforementioned book recently. I of course have read it before-a couple of times in fact, and she and I listened to the final book in the series a few months ago. To my surprise she actually liked it. She was fascinated by the strange tale of Roland, Jake, Eddie Susannah and Oiy. So we decided to check out the first book on audio.
Listening to the book I was provoked to reflect on the very first line of the book. It is easily the most haunting, mesmerizing, mysterious, and ultimately ensnaring opening I have ever read. I've read a lot of damn books so I think that is saying something. Here is the line so you can chew on it, "may it do ya fine."

"The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed."

That line cooks. It hooked me from the first. To me it seems full of hidden muscle, and hard edges. I think it is everything an opening of a book, especially of fiction, ought to strive. That line above teases readers with the mystery of the two men, it teases with the austere setting of the desert, it teases by setting us withing the middle, or is it the end, or the not quite beginning of a chase? Whatever the case maybe King's opening promises surpises, and not all of them pleasant.

Good fiction, lasting fiction, has to promise that I think. It has to hook us. It also has to live up to the promises it makes.

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