Stephen King, the Opening Sentence, and a Writer’s Voice

My writer friends will appreciate this excellent piece from The Atlantic: Why Stephen King Spends ‘Months and Even Years’ Writing Opening Sentences. Whether you count yourself a King fan or not, you cannot deny that the man knows his craft. There’s good stuff to be learned here, and good stuff to be reminded of:

So an intriguing context is important, and so is style. But for me, a good opening sentence really begins with voice. You hear people talk about “voice” a lot, when I think they really just mean “style.” Voice is more than that. People come to books looking for something. But they don’t come for the story, or even for the characters. They certainly don’t come for the genre. I think readers come for the voice.

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.

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