Opening with Dialog

I was recently involved in a discussion about whether or not the "rule" about not opening a novel with dialog was a good rule or one of those urban myths of writing that you figure out is really aimed at newbie writers because they don't have the skills yet to do it well. My position is that you can do it as long as you do it well, but someone in the group said that published writers don't do it and they must know more than the rest of us. His mind was firmly made up, but I was sure he was wrong, so I set out to prove that established, selling authors do indeed start novels with dialog when they deem it appropriate. Here are the highlights of my research.

   "Kiss me, babe."
   "No, really." Beneath the light of a sixty-watt bulb on her porch, Adele Harris placed a hand on the chest of her latest date. "I've had enough excitement for one night."
    ~ Not Another Bad Date (chapter 1)by Rachel Gibson, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author 

"From now on, Blakestone, you'll just have to watch her like a bloody hawk." 
    ~ Marry the Man Today by Linda Needham, 1995 Romance Writers of America's Golden Heart winner

"Brett Rensselaer, you are a ruthless bastard."
   ~ Spy Sinker by Len Deighton, author of numerous best selling spy novels

"Who?" said the man occupying my new apartment.
"Tres Navarre," I said.
I pressed the lease agreement against the screen door again so he could see it.
  ~ From Big Red Tequila by Rick Riordan, #1 New York Times bestselling author and winner of the top three national awards in the mystery genre - the Edgar, the Anthony and the Shamus

"I'll race you to the corner!" Annemarie adjusted the thick leather pack on her back so that her schoolbooks balanced evenly. "Ready?" She looked at her best friend.
~  From Number the Stars by Lois Lowry, Newberry Medal winner

"Are we almost there?" Jennifer asked for what must have been the hundredth time.
  ~ From The Wizard's Map by Jane Yolen, author of more than 170 books, winner of numerous awards, and president of the Science Fiction Writers of America from 1986 to 1988

"I've never known anyone who stood up for her own divorce before," Tina Savage told her sister. "What's it feel like?"
  ~  from  Getting Rid Of Bradley by Jennifer Crusie, New York Times, USA Today, and Publisher's Weekly bestseller and a two-time Rita award winner

"To be born again," sang Gibreel Farishta tumbling from the heavens, "first you have to die."
   ~ from The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie, whose many awards include the European Union's Aristeion Prize for Literature. He is a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and Commandeur des Arts et des Lettres. His 1993, Midnight's Children was judged to be the 'Booker of Bookers', the best novel to have won the Booker Prize in its first 25 years. In June 2007, he received a knighthood in the Queen's Birthday Honours.

"Take my camel, dear," said my Aunt Dot, as she climbed down from this animal on her return from High Mass.
   ~ from Towers of Trebizond by Rose Macaulay, who won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize with this novel.

"When your mama was the geek, my dreamlets," Papa would say, "she made the nipping off of noggins such a crystal mystery that the hens themselves yearned toward her, waltzing around her, hypnotized with longing."
   ~ from Geek Love by Katherine Dunn. This novel was a finalist for the National Book Award

"What do you mean you're not interested?"
  ~ from Tuesday the Rabbi Saw Red by Harry Kemelman, author of eleven popular mystery novels


“Oh! Oh, Jesus! Gross!”
“What, Mary, what?”
“Didn’t you see it?”
“See what?”

  ~ from Desperation by Stephen King (do I really need to tell you who he is?)

'Oh my God!' my friend Arnie Cunningham cried out suddenly.
   ~ from Christine by Stephen King (Oh, all right, I'll give you his credentials.) Author of more than fifty NYT best sellers, he is also the recipient of the 2003 National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters

"We should start back," Gared urged as the woods began to grow dark around them.
   ~ from A Game of Thrones by George R R Martin, another author who shouldn't need introduction given that his series is being made into a cable series

"Whatever your gravity is when you get to the door, remember -- the enemy's gate is down. If you step through your own door like you're out for a stroll, you're a big target and you deserve to get hit. With more than a flasher."
   ~ from Ender's Game by Orson Card Scott, whose work has won multiple awards, including back-to-back wins of the Hugo and the Nebula Awards-the only author to have done so in consecutive years.

"Planning on jumping? I wouldn't. Blood's hell to get out of silk."
~ from Manhunting by Jennifer Crusie, author of more than twenty NYT best selling books.

"Not a pretty way to die, Alexandra."
~ from Terminal City (Alex Cooper Book 16) by Linda Fairstein, author of more than a dozen international bestsellers

So there's what I've found. Do you have any examples to add to the list?

1 comment:

  1. Good examples. If you can make it memorable, it works. Personally, I'd refrain from starting with dialogue, but that's just my choice.