The most beautiful incipit in the world

Three Masters of Literature (and a fairytale bonus) to figure out the most engaging ways to start a book

There are many, many ways to start a story. The study of these techniques is a fundamental aid in understanding how to start your novel in a captivating way, so as to involve readers from the very first lines.

To start off great, a great question to ask yourself is: «What is the most beautiful incipit in the world, what we just can't help but know?».

Well, various rankings have been made over the years. Choosing one was not easy! It can serve as a starting point for our journey, bearing in mind that these are subjective data. Everyone has their heartfelt incipits, the purpose of this article is to learn how to analyze them to understand all their secrets. Get ready, our romance journey begins!

Three incipits to love

According to theAmerican book review, the three most beautiful literary starts in the world are these:

1. Call me Ishmael.

(Moby Dick, Herman Melville)

Melville immediately creates a contact between the narrative voice and the readers, by contacting them directly. Two words are enough to ignite interest: because the writer wants to hide his identity behind a pseudonym? And why did he choose such a particular name, which recalls biblical suggestions? To find out, the only way is to keep reading.

2. It is a universally recognized truth that a wealthy bachelor should feel the need to get married.

(Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen)

Jane Austen's pen never disappoints: can be light, ironic and incisive at the same time. The grace and precision with which he carves the sentences convey his messages directly, without getting lost in words. With this simple statement, he immediately introduces us into his world, made of universally recognized truths which turn out to be unreliable claims. Why should a wealthy bachelor feel the need to marry? Who says that? E, above all, who will be the young man in question? Although the phrase is generic, Indeed, we immediately understand that it is about someone in particular.

3. A cry approaches, crossing the sky.

(The rainbow of gravity, Thomas Pynchon)

Pynchon immediately catapults us into the heart of the action, in a dangerous and agitated moment. What will be this cry that approaches? The song continues: It's happened before, but nothing comparable to now. It's too late now. The evacuation continues, but it's all show. The sense of danger is tangible and pushes us to continue reading to understand what is happening.

Not bad, vero? Interesting insights can be drawn from each of them:

  1. we can begin by addressing the reader directly, to create an empathetic bond from the beginning;
  2. we can focus on irony and an intriguing statement, perhaps deliberately provocative or sarcastic, to stimulate public reflection;
  3. we can go right in in medias res, conveying a sense of alarm, adventure and mystery.

What's your favorite incipit, among these three or among others you know? if you go, let me know by writing me an e-mail.

My incipit of the heart

As far as I'm concerned, each of those indicated gives me different emotions, personality sign (and genius) of their authors. Nevertheless, none of the three are my all time favorite. The place of honor belongs to something totally different: the incipit of Snow White.

"But how? This compares the opening words of literary masterpieces with the start of a simple one… tale?» You might ask yourself.

Yes. Of course yes! For me they fairy tales they are masterpieces, works of art elaborated by the collective consciousness of humanity over the centuries. Passed down by word of mouth, perfected to become ever more universal. When they then arrive in written form thanks to authors of the caliber of the Grimm brothers… be’, the result is this:

Once, in late winter, as snowflakes fell from the sky like feathers, a queen sat sewing by an ebony-framed window.

I have this image printed in my mind since the distant eighties, when my mom used to buy fairy tale boxes with Elah pudding points. Of all the stories heard, Snow White's was my favorite, precisely for this incipit. I saw (and I still see) before my eyes the noble queen, intent on doing a daily job such as sewing. The flakes, whirling light and white outside the window, they contrast with the black of the cornice («Ebony is an all-black wood», my mother explained to me).

Let's go a little further:

E, as she sewed and looked up at the snow, he pricked his finger and three drops of blood fell on the snow. The red was so beautiful against that whiteness, she thought to herself: “If I had a child as white as snow, red as blood and black as the wood of the window!”. Shortly after, gave birth to a baby girl as white as snow, red as blood and with hair as black as ebony; e, because of this, they called her Snow White.

Translation taken from

It's no wonder?

Rosso, like the blood that gives life; nero, like death; bianco, like the innocence of the new creature that will come into the world, in this interweaving of life and death. All the meaning of existence, enclosed in a few lines.

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