I posted a while ago about beginnings and how important it is to hook the reader right from the start. I said that “Once upon a time” just didn’t cut it any more.
Would you believe I’ve found the most brilliant beginning – and it starts with “Once upon a time”? Just goes to show that if you’re good you can make anything work. And also that I have no idea what I’m talking about – not that that comes as a great surprise!
It’s from Back When We Were Grownups by Anne Tyler. I read her Digging to America when it came out (a couple of years ago?) and was awed by her skill. I went looking for another, but didn’t like it as much. Last week I picked up Back When We Were Grownups while browsing the secondhand bookshop and I’m back to awe again. She is a master of understatement. Her characters are brilliant; so real, so ordinary but so engrossing. Yet they are brought to life so obliquely. She could have written the textbook on “show, don’t tell”. It made me realise how much I have to learn.
It was a quiet little story, like the others of hers I’ve read. Everyday, domestic problems – but do you think I could put it down? The first line sucked me in and I was gone.
“Once upon a time, there was a woman who discovered she had turned into the wrong person.”
How cool is that? I want to be Anne Tyler when I grow up.