"I'd never given much thought to how I would die - though I'd had reason enough in the last few months - but even if I had, I would not have imagined it like this."
Book: Twilight (Book 1 of The Twilight Saga)
Author: Stephenie Meyer
Genres: Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult
Sub-Genres: Urban Fantasy, Vampires
Character Speaking: Bella Swan
About the Book: Written from Bella Swan's first person point of view, Twilight deals with Bella moving to the American Northwest and finding love in the form of Edward Cullen, a non-human-eating immortal vampire.
Analysis: The first lines of four book Twilight Saga are from the first book's preface, which takes up only a page, and then the book moves backwards in time to several months prior. The timing of the preface is actually out of a scene at the end of book, where Bella faces down a vampire who wants to kill her. In this sense, the first line is being used as a framing device.
The line, since it pronounces the immediate death of our protagonist and narrator, is compelling for it immediately creates conflict. Writers often forget that conflict is essential to any good story, and Meyer delivers it here, in the very first line.
The problem is that she doesn't sustain that conflict for the rest of the book. The reader keeps waiting for this scene to reemerge, and when it does, it is over so quickly that the reader is disappointed. The First Line should always be a promise made (and kept) with the reader - in other words, that the novel will be the answer to the thought contained in the first line. Here, it is the question of how did Bella end up facing her own death, and how, presumably since she's narrating this book, did she survive?
So, the reality is that the first line of Twilight offers not the epic romance that the series is actually known for, but the violence and blood-letting that the book never actually delivers on.
Let's also look at the construction of the sentence. There is a nice parallelism going on with the phrasing, and the pauses Meyer creates using hyphens and a comma can almost be seen as someone breathing a bit too fast, further upping the danger quotient.
The only problem is that the word choice eliminates all those forces. The whole "not like this" at the end is so generic that it eliminates any chance for the reader to feel connected to the narrator. It feels trite, especially after the narrator (Bella) tells us she's had reason to believe she'd face her death in the months before. A person facing death wouldn't be thinking in such generalities, they'd be thinking about the terror directly in front of them.
So, the word choice feels like a cheap writing ploy when examined closely. Using the generic "not like this", Meyer can leave things open to the reader's imagination. Sadly, this only works when what actually happens is really interesting and surprising, rendering us to agree with the narrator who told us "not like this".
In fact, given how the book progresses (she's met her attacked many times before she apparently thinks this thought), and Bella herself chooses this particular confrontation, so it really isn't that surprising to her. So, the logic here doesn't hold. She would have thought of dying like this, especially since she confronts him, not the other way around.
Rule of the trade: keep those promises to the reader. Meyer didn't here.
Buy It Here: Twilight