Impromptu writing, whatever comes...on writing or whatever the question of the day is.
|"Lorsque j'avais six ans j'ai vu, une fois, une magnifique image, dans un livre sur la Forêt Vierge qui s'appelait "Histoires Vécues". Ca représentait un serpent boa qui avalait un fauve."
Joking aside, this is the opening sentences of Le Petit Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. It has been translated as: "Once when I was six years old I saw a beautiful picture in a book about the primeval forest called True Stories. It showed a boa constrictor swallowing an animal."
Even though The Little Prince is my all-time favorite book, as first sentences of written works go, this one averages in the middle of the opening-lines arc. I like it better when suddenly, I'm right inside the story.
My second all-time favorite book is Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë. Its opening also averages in the middle of the arc. "There was no possibility of taking a walk that day." Although there is action in this sentence, it doesn't really tell me anything about the story. Still it pulls me in.
Now check the following out. These opening sentences have action and they tell or imply something about the general story.
"Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice." Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude
"It was inevitable: the scent of bitter almonds always reminded him of the fate of unrequited love." Gabriel Garcia Marquez: Love in the Time of Cholera
No wonder Gabriel Garcia Marquez won the Nobel prize for literature, as did most of the authors in the following examples:
"He was an old man who fished alone in a skiff in the Gulf Stream and he had gone eighty-four days now without taking a fish." Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and The Sea
"Stately, plump Buck Mulligan came from the stairhead, bearing a bowl of lather on which a mirror and a razor lay crossed." James Joyce, Ulysses
"It was a wrong number that started it, the telephone ringing three times in the dead of night, and the voice on the other end asking for someone he was not." Paul Auster, City of Glass
"Through the fence, between the curling flower spaces, I could see them hitting." William Faulkner, The Sound and the Fury
"Mother died today." Albert Camus, The Stranger
"They shoot the white girl first." Toni Morrison, Paradise
"As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a monstrous vermin." Franz Kafka, Metamorphosis
Many writers give the utmost importance due to the opening lines. Stephen King spends months and even years, writing opening lines. He says he just writes the story, then goes back and works on the opening line.
The opening line is not only there as a hook, but it also serves as a quick introduction to a writer's style, as a good sentence tends to do.
A really bad first sentence, many times, has convinced me not to read a novel or a story. A sentence like, "This is what happened," doesn't say anything to me. It is dull, uncreative, and sounds like the hesitant writer is trying pull his courage together to tell me something he is pushed to tell. In the same vein is the opening line that starts with the weather especially when the weather has no bearing on the story. Blatant grammar flaws are no help either.
On the other hand, I'll go on reading the story if the first sentence pulls me in right into the action or hints at or says something about the general plot or the main character. Then, I'm overjoyed if that sentence has a distinct voice in it, usually the writer's voice. With a truly good story, a powerful voice is there in the first sentence.
It can be argued that a story won't stand alone on its first sentence and the plot and characters are the real work. Agreed! Still, the first sentence is the first thing that acquaints me to the story; therefore, its muscle is incredibly strong.
Prompt: Take the first sentence from your favorite book and make it the first sentence of your Blog entry.