In Joe Fassler’s recent interview with Stephen King in “The Atlantic” we learn what the bestselling author thinks a first line in a novel should accomplish. Besides establishing time and space, and hooking the reader with compelling action, an opening line should, most importantly, establish voice.
We’ve heard the term “voice” before but what is it exactly? King describes it as follows:
“A novel’s voice is something like a singer’s — think of singers like Mick Jagger and Bob Dylan, who have no musical training but are instantly recognizable. When people pick up a Rolling Stones record, it’s because they want access to that distinctive quality. They know that voice, they love that voice, and something in them connects profoundly with it. Well, it’s the same way with books. Anyone who’s read a lot of John Sanford, for example, knows that wry, sarcastic amusing voice that’s his and his alone. Or Elmore Leonard — my god, his writing is like a fingerprint. You’d recognize him anywhere. An appealing voice achieves an intimate connection — a bond much stronger than the kind forged, intellectually, through crafted writing.” Read more