How to Write the Opening Line of a Novel

This morning I finally got to sit down the Henry James’ The Aspern Papers, after letting it languish in a stack of junk for the last week. Writers, take note:  this is how to start a novel:

I had taken Mrs. Prest into my confidence; in truth without her I should have made but little advance, for the fruitful idea in the whole business dropped from her friendly lips. It was she who invented the short cut, who severed the Gordian knot.

I have no idea what this story is about. I’ve read very little James, so my expectations are low if not nonexistent. But with an entrance like this one, I already feel like I’m in good hands. Here’s a novelist who knows how to craft a sentence and tell a story. I already know I don’t have to worry about losing interest or being assaulted with inadequate writing skills. I can just sit back and enjoy. Thank you, Mr. James.

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