Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Thoughts on First Lines...

 Thoughts on MGOC's Chapter:

"You Have to Start with SOMETHING, So It Might As Well Be Something Like This"   
by Gary Braunbeck

Assault, Intrigue and Beguile”

I found Gary’s descriptions of the three types of opening lines very interesting. I’d never had opening lines described quite in that way.  As a nurse-practitioner/midwife, my studies in anatomy often came with a different pneumonic for memorizing cranial nerves, or bones, or muscles.  Various silly (or sexual) mantras were repeated to help medical/nursing students recall vital procedures or medications.  Why not apply this method to the craft of writing?

When I went back and researched a few of my favorite novels, I found these opening lines:

"IT WAS THE PIVOTAL teaching of Pluthero Quexos, the most celebrated dramatist of the Second Dominion, that in any fiction, no matter how ambitious its scope or profound its theme, there was only ever room for three players." ~Clive Barker (Imajica)

"I've watched through his eyes, I’ve listened through his ears, and I tell you he’s the one." ~Orson Scott Card (Ender's Game)

"Picture to yourself the sickest place in the whole of Zamonia!" ~Walter Moers (Alchemaster's Apprentice)

"This memory came back to Billy Halleck, fittingly enough, as he stood on the scales at seven in the morning with a towel wrapped around his middle." ~Stephen King (Thinner)

Those are the 'first lines' of some stories I've enjoyed, but I'm not sure I'd say they are GREAT first lines. All I know is that the story pulled me in, and I was willing to go on the journey the author mapped out for me to take.  The first lines of these novels don't strike me as spectacular, but there is intrigue and a little beguiling in them.  I can't recall reading any novels that begin with a full frontal assault.

Gary’s examples of each type of opening line in writing were useful to read, and made me go back to look at some of my own short stories and other previous work.  What worked? What didn’t work, and why? I asked myself those questions as I did some self-analysis. Here are a couple of examples:

First line of Sapien Farm:

The farmhouse had been transformed in a matter of weeks into the type of lab they both desperately needed.”  (Intrigue? It's flat and I need to work on it.)

 First line of The Flatulent Adventures of Dr Stench and the DC Underground:

“The moon, still visible high above, began to fade against the dawning sky.”
(It’s a lackluster opening that does none of the three techniques Gary describes. The next line might work, however, to illicit intrigue…)
“A mournful tune rose up from Queen Vadoma’s throat and erupted into the branches of the old oak above her.”  (Is it better? I think so. But I think I'll still have to work on it.)

This first reading from MGOC has definitely encouraged my neurons to fire, and I’ve decided to go back and rework that ‘first line’ on all of my writings for better punch, quicker grab and deliberate impact.



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