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The Dreaded First Line

Your first chapter, first paragraph, first line all need to be catchy, don't they? Otherwise, it'll be a lot more difficult to sell your story. So where do you get really good opening lines?

Unless one pops into your head right away, chances are you need to write the rest of the story before you can come up with an intro with good resonance. Here's what I do when I need to create a first line:

- Finish my story
- Decide what the theme of the story turned out to be
- Figure out if there's a way something in the very beginning can foreshadow the theme
- Determine what my character turned out to be like, in essence
- Show the character doing something that demonstrates the key characteristic.

Your Assignment

Back by popular demand! Your assignment this week -- take a story you're almost finished with and brainstorm three different ways you could start it. If you aren't currently wrapping up a project, you could try this on a piece by someone else you've recently read.
<a href="http://packingheat.net/2009/05/06/packing-heat-052-first-line.aspx>Click here for podcast</a>


( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 6th, 2009 02:16 pm (UTC)
It was a dark and stormy night....
May. 7th, 2009 08:40 am (UTC)
An oldie but a goodie!
May. 6th, 2009 04:35 pm (UTC)
My best one ever was :
Fuck, it hurt!

Seriously, this was a bit of a revelation for me - the idea of finishing the story and THEN finding the opener. So often it's been the opener that's spawned the story for me.

I'm working on improvement as we speak, currently in the trenches of WW1! ^_____^
May. 7th, 2009 08:41 am (UTC)
Nice, glad I could give you another tool for your toolbox! I think opening lines are like titles. Either they're right there and they spawn the whole story, or they're something you really need to dig for. (I prefer the first scenario, obviously.)
May. 7th, 2009 06:34 am (UTC)
Well. Wasn't this timely. I've had an original m/m story in my mind for about three weeks now and because I ruminate internally - in the shower and as I fall asleep at night, I've been rolling the first line over and over in my mind. I have the outline, I know where it's going, but starting...now, there's the rub. (Also titles, but I won't go there for now.)

But this little exercise forced me to at least start. (And as you say after the first draft and re-write and editor's say - I'll change a lot, I'm sure - probably even the first line or two)

So here they are...

The sliver of light that met Andrew Wyatt’s eye as he turned over in bed told him all he needed to know. Brett wasn’t home and it was late.

2:47 AM and Brett still wasn’t home.

Andrew Wyatt shifted from his right side to his left and half opened an eye. The sliver of light that crossed his face from the slightly cracked bedroom door told him all that he needed to know. Brett wasn’t home and it was late.

I really don't love any of them, but hey! - it's a start and thanks for providing the impetus... (Actually, just doing this little exercise has put me on a different path...thanks!)

Edited at 2009-05-07 10:50 am (UTC)
May. 7th, 2009 08:46 am (UTC)
Awesomeness -- so few people actually SHOW me their assignments (which was why I figured no one was doing 'em.) What I dig about yours is that you show the same thing happening three very differently-paced ways. A lot of people get stuck on approaching something the same way every time. I think it jogs stuff loose to keep reimagining the approach.

I wonder if that's what happened with the new path you spotted. I'm so excited my humble little exercise gave you an idea!

I ruminate in bed too. A lot of times it's a matter of, "Well, I can't sleep so I might as well figure out what the next chapter is about." It helps cut down on the frustration of being tired but not falling asleep right away.
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )

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