Opening Quotes and Their Importance

Fools leave too soon
Built to fill roles
And fall, standing alone again
Distant and dissatisfied

These four years
And how we say goodbye to these four years
A long goodbye with mixed emotions
Just fragments of another life

Not dead yet
But the regrets (are killing me)

American Football, “But the Regrets are Killing Me”

These are the lyrics that I picked to open my second novel, Summer Complex. I’ve always been fascinated with the quotes and song lyrics that many authors choose to precede their first chapter. They are meant to convey the themes and overall tone of the book, often boiling its true message down to just a few lines. For me, this song by American Football was a clear winner. It hit on my protagonist Tyler Morris’ sense of defeat and the futile meandering he experiences after graduating from Tech State College and becoming stuck in the small West Texas town of Presidio Plains. “And how we say goodbye to these four years…” A very fitting question for not only Tyler, but for any college-student-turned-graduate who wonders what they’re doing in life as they venture into a new and uncertain chapter.

What are your thoughts on opening quotes? Do you like the idea of using them or absolutely try and steer clear? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Jed Herne says:

    At the risk of sounding snobbish, I much prefer quotes from poems/other stories. This is because these are designed to be read from paper, whereas song lyrics rely heavily on extra factors (rhythm, melody, voice, etc.) which some readers might not be aware of. In short, you can be more confident that readers will interpret a poem/prose quote the same way you do as opposed to a song quote, which can be more up to individual interpretation. But hey, maybe that’s a good thing! Anyway, just thought I’d chuck in my two cents. Great article!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Personally, I really enjoy when a writer utilizes these well. I don’t typically do it myself because my musical taste/knowledge is some what limited and I think I would end up getting redundant picking the same five songs or artists to quote from that everyone already knows.
    I really enjoy the quote that you chose, it does what I like best and quotes lyrics that I’m unfamiliar with but which immediately resonate with me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. rmcalzada says:

      Thank you Michael Christopher! I agree, I think that a writer who is very familiar with the theme and central message of their story can easily select a very appropriate quote, proverb, or song to open their book with.

      Thank you for commenting and sharing your thoughts!

      Liked by 1 person

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