I'm going to oversimplify things a bit by asserting that there are only two types of readers. Allow me to set the stage: The other night I was lying in bed and having trouble going to sleep. After finishing the book I was reading I was still unable to drift off, and mired in a state of half-crazed sleep deprivation. Under these circumstances I obviously experienced a brilliant epiphany - I decided that there are two types of readers in the world: Those who prefer the first line of a book, and those who prefer the last.
First liners appreciate how important the initial words are to the reader. They set the tone for the entire book. They can pull you into a story, or they can make you turn up your nose and move on to something else. The first line can be a lot like the smell wafting off of the Thanksgiving turkey that you waited ever-so-patiently on as it FINALLY arrives on the table.
Readers who favor the final line understand that the entire plot and purpose of a book can be summed up perfectly in just a few words when a good closing line is written by a skilled author. It's an author's last, best chance to tell the reader EXACTLY what they were trying to say. Last liners want closure, but aren't afraid to be challenged by the author to think a little more about what they just read.
Not sure which sounds more like you? I've made a little quiz that features 5 famous first lines and 5 famous last lines from classic books there's a good chance many of you have read before. See if you can identify the book or the author from the line. If you score higher in one of the sections, you might have the answer to whether you're a 'first liner' or a 'last liner'.
*Check out the comments section for the answers; I didn't want to put any spoilers in the post.
5 Famous First Lines
1. "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife."
2. "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair."
3. "Call me Ishmael. "
4. "All children, except one, grow up."
5. "If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don't feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth."
5 Famous Last Lines
1. “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past."
2. “He loved Big Brother.”
3. “He would be there all night, and he will be there when Jem waked up in the morning.”
4. "But wherever they go, and whatever happens to them on the way, in that enchanted place on the top of the Forest, a little boy and his Bear will always be playing. "
5. "He was soon borne away by the waves and lost in darkness and distance. "
When you check out the answers, let me know if you're a first liner or a last liner. I'm a last liner myself, but I'm curious to see what the majority of you consider yourselves.