Opening Lines are
like first impressions, they last, and most times define the direction of a relationship.
I have often misjudged people, thanks to first impressions. I see them, size them up by their looks, the words escaping their mouth, their mannerism and body language, the people they are with and many other variables. I sometimes get the feeling of ‘I can never get along with this one,’ on meeting some people for the first time. While with some, our spirits are in synergy, we recognize ourselves and greet ‘namaste.’ But Ironically, I have built strong relationships with those of the first category. After getting pass the first impression, I discover a sea of similarities beneath that draws me to them.
Books like people also leave a first impression.Opening lines are the looks, words,mannerism and company I judge them by. I do not judge a book by its cover, I tend to do so by its opening line. And with short stories, articles and editorials, I am more bias. If the opening line doesn’t sucker punch me in, I tend to leave. Why go on a second date when the first was horrendous?
For a ‘wanna be writer’, opening lines are the sales pitch for a reader to keep reading. As in marketing where the sales pitch needs to be short, catchy and engaging, opening lines need to have all those and more — at lest that’s what most writing tips say.
There are opening Lines that hunt me. ‘Beauty comes once in a year. ..’ from TJ Benson ‘s Waiting For Beauty taunts me. It didn’t have that choking grip the first time I read it, but a year after reading I saw it everywhere. Sticking its tongue out, relishing the fact that it got me where I cannot wrestle free.
‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way … ‘ The Opening Lines of Charles Dickens’ A Tale of two Cities is another that got me. The amazing contradictions of metaphors drives me deeper in love with lady metaphor.
Aunty Lilian is a house with only walls. Not the best opening line I have written but still it’s one that have left me with a lasting impression. Eight words without a question mark yet with a quicksand of questions.
However, most of my favorite books do not have amazing opening lines — one girl’s Prince Charming is another’s frog— so don’t come after me for saying I wasn’t stunned from the first page when I read The God of Small Things. Or That I didn’t find Scot Fitzgerald’s writing ethereal when I labored through the first few pages of The Great Gatsby. Don’t hurry to bitch slap me back to sanity for not falling apart at Achebe’s opening Lines of Things Fall Apart.
These books and many others—Blindness, Disgrace, Homecoming, If I don’t find a way to fit these in, myself will quarrel with myself— didn’t blow my mind from the go. They let me test the water with my toe nails, encourage me to have a little faith and then pulled me in to drown in a sea of enchanting words. Like Beauty coming once in a year, these are books I can never forget.
Mis-match experiences of unforgettable opening lines and favorite books leaves me with something more than a good read. It’s a chocolate box of lessons, they come in many shapes, sizes and colors.
As always, I have some questions you don’t have to answer but you should.
How many times have you missed out on a great relationship because of a poor first impression?
They didn’t dress right, they said the wrong words, they were with the wrong crowd. He had dreadlocks, tattoos and wore a Timberland so he must be a rogue. She is wearing a bum short and a camisole so she must be loose. Ever judge someone like that?
Although we need to find a balance by encouraging people to strive to make a good first impression, we should also remember a first impression is just what it is, a first impression. It’s not the whole deal. There are more to people, books,movies and things than the first layer of deception we see.
Chris Tucker once said, “We do not really meet people when we meet them for the first time. We only meet their representatives.” So while you rejoice at meeting your prince charming, hold back a little and look again, your prince might just be a charming plated devil.
First impressions matter, especially in situations where you cannot have the opportunity to make another impression. I have the faces of ‘idiots’ engraved in my brain because they acted like one when our paths crossed. Likewise, I do know some people still see me as a walking calamity, an idiot disguising as human because I probably acted like one when we first met.
Conclusively, it’s important to judge fast so we can invest in the right relationships and know when to let go of the wrong ones. But the caveat is always remember not to judge too quickly. It is not a crime to give a person, a book, or a thing the benefit of a doubt. Because no matter how great we think we are, we can never be at our best every time. We might just cross path with that person in our moment of folly.