I have been in the midst of a “Jane Austen” weekend. I started Emma. (A book I had never actually read.) However, the best opening line in an English language novel is not in that one of hers, but in another one:
None of us writers will ever match that… the first sentence of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice (1813). Austen there is witty, cutting, sardonic, and clearly setting the scene for all that follows while giving nothing away. Without a doubt, it is in a class all its own.
But that doesn’t mean we “ordinary” writers should not strive to do our best. It is useful to have a “catchy” not just opening line, but an attention-getting opening generally, in order to draw a reader forward page upon page. I find books I stay with carry me along without me even realizing it, and I strive to write bearing in mind what works on me as a reader.
In the previous post, I discussed my first three novels, set in the 1990s in America, France, England, Italy, and on airplanes. My fourth is unrelated to those, and is a much bigger single effort than any of those previous. It is itself almost equivalent to “two” entire books, and I attacked writing it in, as you also may know, an “old-fashioned” style deliberately reminiscent of the era in which it is set.
I posted this before. It is one of my favorite contemporary portraits putting a truly human face to that era:
It isn’t known with certainty who “Miss Constable” actually was. Regardless I feel “her” painting there beautifully immortalizes for us a young English woman of the 1780s gentry. (Suddenly, though, I do wonder if she might have been an ancestor of Adele Archer?) Prior to the arrival of photography in the 1840s, portraiture like that is all we’ve now got, of course. (Future generations will have Instagram to look back on for reproductions of us: God help us all.)
Historical characters are obviously their real selves. I find one of the “sneaky” joys in fiction writing is basing characters, or important aspects of them, on living (or once living) people and only you know who he or she “really” is. That latter is especially fun with a non-contemporary novel – dropping someone, or aspects of someone, into a tale set in the distant past.
Since I shared those “snapshots” of the earlier books, I thought I would round things out here by offering similar excerpts from that Conventions: The Garden At Paris, which is set mostly between 1787-1795 in America, France, England, and on ships. So let’s have a reading “escape” back to the 18th century. It being a Monday especially, I suspect we could use a “getaway”:
Yes, and as you also may know, I’ve started writing another novel set in the same era, with many of the same characters, and also some new ones:
It is a truth universally acknowledged that an author, in possession of a completed novel, is always asked when is the next one.😂
Have a good day, wherever you are in our world. 🙂