The Curse of the Starting Sentence

This is another example, presented because I don't see how you can possibly believe that a single first line can so easily knock the following events out of chronological order.

Cazaril heard the mounted horsemen on the road before he saw them. He glanced over his shoulder. (The Curse of Chalion, Bujold)

Glancing over his shoulder occurs before seeing them, so these two events are out of chronological order.

The next sentence follows the second in chronological order, describing what he sees looking back:

The well-worn track behind him curled up around a rolling rise, what passed for a hill on these high windy plains, before dipping again into the late-winter muck of Baocia's bony soil.

But the fourth sentence describes what he saw before looking back:

At his feet a little rill, too small and intermittent to rate a culvert or a bridge, trickled greenly across the track from the sheep-cropped pastures above.

Or maybe he turned forward again, but he wouldn't be paying attention to a little rill now, much less one he's already seen. Horsemen are coming! But really I think he's still looking back.

The thump of hooves, jangle of harness, clink of bells, creak of gear and careless echo of voices came on at too quick a rhythm to be some careful farmer with a team, or parsimonious pack-men driving their mules.

We are just now finding out why he thought it was mounted horsemen, which was the first event mentioned.

In the next paragraph, he finally sees the mounted horsemen:

The cavalcade trotted around the side of the rise riding two by two, in full panoply of their order, some dozen men. Not bandits – Cazaril let out his breath, and swallowed his unsettled stomach back down.

It's very natural – and good writing – to describe a character's emotional reaction to an event immediately after the event occurs. After a paragraph, we learn (only by inference) Cazaril's response to hearing mounted horsemen: He held his breath and his stomach tightened.

So the first sentence pushed the events out of chronological order, and it took the author two paragraphs to get back on track.


Not all starts are out of chronological order:

"Is this seat taken?" I asked the attractive young woman sitting by herself in the lounge.
She loooked up from her newspaper but didn't reply.
I sat oppposte her at the cocktail table and put down my beer. She went back to her paper and sipped on her drink, a bourbon and Coke. I inquired, "Come here often?"
(The General's Daughter, DeMille)

Didn't that seem normal? A first line can even be interesting and yet not disturb chronological order.

By the time Briddley pulled into the parking garage at Commspan there were forty-two text messages on her phone. (Crosstalk, Willis)

The she then checks her messages, then gets out of the car. So the first line was in perfect chronological order, allowing the next sentence to be also.

The doorman didn't smile at me.
That thought plagues me during the entire ride up the elevator to Ethan's floor.
(All Your Perfects, Hoover)

There's a small isolation caused by a small jump in time. But the story flows in chronological order.

Is that the only type of error typical found only in first lines? Hah!