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It seems like a good time to talk about beginnings. New beginnings, and old ones, too.

The words we start a story with are the first one the reader encounters, so not surprisingly I'd bet they're revised more than any other part. Mine certainly change a lot.

Let's compare!


First opening line:

Right before she died, my sister and I had a pretty crap relationship.

Current opening line:

You would think it’d be easier to get along with a person after they’re dead.


First opening line:

The first time I met Penelope, I didn't know I had.

Current opening line:

For a long time, my name belonged to my mother.


First opening line:

On the days when Jarad was just himself, he lived mostly with the animals.

Current opening line:

If Jarad had been given a choice, he wouldn't have picked the rough and battered hillside for the skirmish.

What's most obvious to me, looking this over, is that I'm a character person. They all have people in them, and most are people talking about other people. I like to get the main character(s) out there right from the start. :D

I also try to raise questions to peak the reader's interest. Why did Cass and her sister have a "crap" relationship/why wouldn't it be easy to get along with someone who's dead? How could Lucy not have known she met someone/in what way did her name belong to her mother, and why? Are there days when Jarad is not only himself/why is he involved in a skirmish, and why didn't he get to choose it?

Something I've been thinking about recently is resonance. If I can get my opening line, or at least my opening paragraph, to resonate through the story right to the end, and hint at the problems that will follow the main character throughout, then, well, I think that's pretty cool. ;) That's part of the reason POSSESSING LUCY has it's current opening--the story has a lot to do with belonging, and with owning your own life. Jarad's story is all about making choices and recognizing when you have one. I hadn't thought of it when I wrote the most recent draft of GIVING UP THE GHOST, but I think there's at least a little resonance there, too, in terms getting along with people and the living vs. the dead.

Okay, your turn! What are your (first and/or current) opening lines? What do they say about your writing? What do you try to accomplish with them?

Feel free to just post in your own journal, but comment to let me know you have so I can check 'em out.


( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 12th, 2008 12:20 am (UTC)
I really like your opening lines, the first and the current ones. I'd say this is a strength of yours, bringing us into the characters from the get-go.

It's not a strength of mine, sadly. I looked over all my opening lines, and they're more about setting than anything else. I think that's typical of my process -- I like to know the story is grounded first and foremost...yet I love to read opening lines like yours. Hm...:)
Feb. 14th, 2008 02:34 am (UTC)
There's something to be said for starting with setting. One of my favorite opening lines is more setting (and thematic) than anything else--the first line of TUCK EVERLASTING. :)
Feb. 12th, 2008 03:24 am (UTC)
You're good at opening lines, I think. I would have read on with all six of them. And I do think using character is a good way to approach it. I'll play at my LJ too!
Feb. 14th, 2008 02:36 am (UTC)
Thanks! I like yours, too--they give a good sense of 'setting the stage'. :)
Feb. 12th, 2008 02:06 pm (UTC)
Shadowed Summer starts with (and always has started with):

Nothing ever happened in Ondine, not even the summer Elijah Landry disappeared.

Jane Doe originally started with:

A girl lies by the river.

Currently starts with:

"Do you know how many one-Mississippis there are in ten minutes?"

And will change again soon.

Vespertine currently starts with:

Coming up from the vision was coming out of water.

And is subject to a great deal of refinement yet, but this is closer to what I want than Jane's opening line.

All I'm trying to do, for all of them, is write my version of

Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again."

That one perfect line that sets the tone for the whole book, capturing the overriding theme, and the weight and lyrical style. That's why Jane's current first line just ain't working for me, however, I think I'm going to have to power through the rest of my revision before I can get the right opener for her. She's a tough nut.
Feb. 14th, 2008 02:37 am (UTC)
I love that opening (Manderley). I've tried to do that myself, too. :)

I'm impressed that you had a first line that stuck! I always end up changing mine. I love the metaphor in Vespertine's (it's very vivid).
Feb. 12th, 2008 11:16 pm (UTC)
Hi! I found this post via Carrie Jones.

I posted in my own journal, but I was kind of lazy about the analytical portion. I just thought it was a fun thing to look back on. So, thanks for the idea!
Feb. 14th, 2008 02:38 am (UTC)
You're welcome! Thanks for playing. :D
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )

My Books

Earth & Sky
(Earth & Sky #1, science fiction YA)
Skyscape/Razorbill Canada, 2014

The Clouded Sky
(Earth & Sky #2, science fiction YA)
Skyscape/Razorbill Canada, 2015

A Sky Unbroken
(Earth & Sky #3, science fiction YA)
Skyscape/Razorbill Canada, 2015

The Way We Fall
(Fallen World #1, apocalyptic YA)
Disney-Hyperion, 2012

The Lives We Lost
(Fallen World #2, apocalyptic YA)
Disney-Hyperion, 2013

The Worlds We Make
(Fallen World #3, apocalyptic YA)
Disney-Hyperion, 2014

Those Who Lived: Fallen World Stories
(Fallen World #3.5, apocalyptic YA)
self pubbed, 2014

Give Up the Ghost
(paranormal YA)
Henry Holt, 2009

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