It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a writer in possession of a good story, must be in want of a way in. Sometimes the solution comes in the form of an arresting initial phrase or sentence; and the best of these are the ones that contain in germ what is to follow. Thus it is hard to beat Shakespeare’s “Who’s there?” But there are more than a few familiar instances of striking starts and startling strikes.
Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita… (Midway in the journey of our life…)
Le dessein en est pris, je pars… (It is resolved [or The plan is laid, The decision is taken], I’m leaving…)
Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life…
Все счастливые семьи похожи друг на друга… (All happy families resemble one another…)
Als Gregor Samsa eines Morgens aus unruhigen Träumen erwachte… (When Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams…)
Lolita, light of my life…
And a memorable invoice can suggest goods quite other than those that will be delivered:
En un lugar de la Mancha, de cuyo nombre no quiero acordarme… (In a village of La Mancha, whose name I do not wish to remember…)
A deeper problem is the opening—not just the first move, but the sequence of moves that gives character to the game—not just the elegant doorway, but the entrance hall whose style is that of the whole interior. It is masterfully handled in The Three Musketeers, where the hero we will come to love, who has just left the advice and tears of his parents, appears in the guise of a hero already beloved, a giant figure impossible to overcome—only to break free of this foreign domination that has enlarged him, to show himself unmistakably fresh and new.
What other openings are especially well done?