LitStack Pick: The Lines We Wish We’d Written

The Gunslingergunslinger
Stephen King

How can I not include Stephen King’s The Gunslinger in this week’s staff pick? One of the more famous works in fiction begins:

The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.”

The opening sentence stands alone in its own paragraph and captures the entirety of the story before the reader.

King’s opening sentence is that remarkable thing that all writers strive to create: a single thought or image that draws attention, but also foreshadows as much of the story as it can. Consider for a moment if the book had a different first line; a character description, the weather, or diving right into the heart of the paragraph that follows, “The desert was the apotheosis of all deserts, huge, standing to the sky for what looked like an eternity in all directions.”

King is well known for his grand pictures crafted in few words and this sentence leads the pack. Right away the mood is set; years of cliché good vs. bad plays out to know the man in black is bad—he flees across the desert, an inhospitable landscape, to escape the namesake of the book, the title, The Gunslinger.

In my younger days, many of my own whimsical attempts at fiction began with lofty goals of a beautiful fire line such as this. If I could say one thing, I hope to one day have a book begin with a line as open, direct, and honest as the one laid before my by Stephen King.

The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.”

-T.R. Woodruff

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2 thoughts on “LitStack Pick: The Lines We Wish We’d Written

  1. This is, so far, one of my favorite LitStack Picks of all time. I’m definitely favoriting it so I can turn back to these lines and recommendations when trying to figure out which book I need to read next.

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