Weeping Wednesday: Death is a Good Start

Do an image search for “ghosts” and “time travel” and of course you will get Doctor Who.

Weeping Wednesday is an occasional feature on Seeking the New Earth. In it we spotlight snatches of literature that make us cry — either because it’s that bad or that good. Or maybe they’re tears of jealousy. 

A good opening line in a story can cement a reader. You toss out a bad opening line, you’ve lost interest or have a long way to go to make it up to the reader. First impressions and all that.

However, a good first line can suck a reader in and keep them involved in the promise of a great story.

Today I’d like to spotlight the first line from a classic speculative fiction story. I suspect you’ll recognize it, though you may never have considered it genre fiction. But how could it not be? It involves time travel and ghosts! The quote comes… after the break! 

Marley was dead, to begin with.

Yes, I’m talking about Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. And I know a good number of people that have that first line memorized. Many would go on to add, “As dead as a doornail,” though that’s actually the second paragraph.

Which I guess sort of says something when people know the second paragraph of a story. Of how many stories can you quote the second full paragraph?

So, yes, search for an opening line that really grabs the reader. Something that is unique and fits the tone of the story. Of course, don’t give away too much, but make sure to invite your reader into your world.

And if that begins with death… well, there are far worse ways to begin your stories!

Incidentally, this is the best adaptation of the story I’ve ever seen. The next closest is Patrick Stewart’s one-man stage version.

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