First Line

JesseJamesAvatar-1In eager participation of Not Enough Words fascinating game, here is a “first line” from one of my short pieces.  First, however, a few thoughts of my own on first lines…I find this topic interesting, especially considering the fact that now writers can spend all kinds of time studying, reading self help books and articles, and attending workshops to perfect ONE sentence.  Wonderful.  Who cares about the story, that was a great sentence!  As I stated in a previous post called the science of fiction, fiction stories should never be bogged down by transparent formulas and mathematical boredom.  So, I agree with you Not Enough Words.  Authors put far too much importance on the first line.  And now, as promised, here is one of my own…please feel free to leave your own thoughts!

When I was little, a fascination wrapped itself around my heart under an impossibly blue sky.”

To read the rest of the piece, please visit elfwoodlogoblack

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10 thoughts on “First Line

  1. I love the first phrase. “A fascination wrapped itself around my heart”. The second phrase leaves me cold. It reads as if her/his heart was under the impossibly blue sky, and makes me go “huh?”

    I read the rest on Elfwood. It sounds like an interesting universe.

    1. Ah, I appreciate that! I posted that particular work knowing that it tells nothing of the story, and indeed it is not a part of the novel as it turned out. I try not to post anything much on Elfwood, and all of the other works were written when I was younger. It’s still a fun place to go, and a wonderful home to any short pieces that I find hidden in a closet somewhere.

  2. OK I’ll bite.

    When I was little, a fascination wrapped itself around my heart under an impossibly blue sky.”

    Okay, we have a character. There’s an age reference, but this doesn’t really tell me anything. I don’t know what the sky has to do with fascination. The image is a bit confusing. “Impossibly blue” seems kind of cliché and doesn’t really tell me anything. You could have said “really really blue” to the same effect.
    Maybe also drop the “a” in front of “fascination”, and drop “itself around”
    …, fascination wrapped my heart
    I dunno. Seems like there’s a way to drop at least a few articles, pronouns, and/or adverbs from this.
    After reading your first paragraph, I’m not even sure this line adds anything to the story. I’m not sure it sets the right mode. I prefer if the first line starts out with some kind of drama. Why not start with, “The old man next door came out of his house with a pistol.” That would get my attention.

    BTW I’ll have some copy up on my blog sometime today if you want to return the comments 🙂
    And there’s a link to my first line on Merrilee’s blog.

  3. I think it’s a good first line. It interests me enough to make me mildly curious about what this child is so fascinated by and why. But I think maybe you could add a little more description to it to set a stronger mood. Did this fascination wrap itself around you, for example “seductively” “”sinuously” perhaps? Was it a sudden, intense fascination or did it slowly creep up? And, impossibly blue doesnt really feel descriptive enough to me either. Is the sky midnight, cerulean, etc? “Impossibly” makes me think that theres something special or unusually beautiful about this sky and I just have no idea what it is.

    1. That seems to be the trick of first lines! The sky is impossibly blue because of atmospheric generators that altered the planet dramatically to make it habitable, and that alteration happened fairly recently to that particular planet. The fascination is described in the following sentences. The trick is that it should catch your attention indeed, and you aren’t supposed to know all of that from just the first line. All the first line should do is KEEP you reading! Thanks for the comment, and I’m glad that you enjoyed the game, courtesy of Not Enough Words, as well as the sentence!

  4. Warning! Rant ahead.

    “Did this fascination wrap itself around you, for example “seductively” “”sinuously” perhaps?”

    Aaargh!

    Why do people assume that adverbs make it better? This is weak, lazy writing! Weak! Lazy!

    There is nothing wrong with “a fascination wrapped itself around my heart”. It’s good, strong prose, a solid verb, a defined subject and object. It’s clear, it says what needs to be said.

    /rant off

  5. An interesting comment from Anon appeared on my Elfwood following Merrilee’s comment, all of which is in direct correlation with my first line.

    Oh yeah, thanks for the rant Merrilee! I loved it, LOL!

    22 Jun 2009 45 Merrilee

    Interesting piece, but you never did tell us what the fascination was that wrapped around her heart.

    23 Jun 2009 🙂 Michael Draven

    It was in the first two paragraphs. It was a memory.

    26 Jun 2009 45 Anon.

    Mmm, a memory is not a fascination. A fascination is an on-going interest or desire.

    27 Jun 2009 🙂 Michael Draven

    I didn’t say that the definition of memory is fascination. The entire first two paragraphs are a memory. You can be fascinated by a memory, right? Her on going interest IS what occurs in the memory. This seems to be confusing the hell out of everyone. SIGH

    1. Ooh, the anon comment was from me, sorry.

      What I was trying to say was, I didn’t “get” that the fascination that wrapped around her heart was the memory. There’s nothing in the text to indicate that she came back to the memory over and over (as one does with a fascination). So it seemed to me, as the reader, that you set up this compelling beginning, “a fascination wrapped itself around my heart”, but didn’t follow through. The rest of the piece is not about the fascination, it’s a letter to her son. Which is fine, but it makes the first line somewhat unconnected with the rest of the story.

      That’s all I’m trying to say. Rule of Checkov’s Gun and all. When I read that first line, I want you to tell me what the fascination was, and how it affected her. I want the story to be about the fascination, and what it leads to. If you then go in a different direction (the letter to her son), you disappoint me as a reader, no matter how good the prose or the story, because you haven’t delivered on the promise in the first line.

      That’s my impression, anyway. 🙂

  6. Excellent feedback, thank you! The piece was a kind of blurb that is not in the novel at all. I wanted to just write something at the time, something to do with one of my characters, but I didn’t feel like writing in my book. So I just wrote whatever I felt like, imagining a “what if ” type of scenario.

    I know that the start of the piece has nothing to do with the rest of it, but that’s just the nature of the randomness that was the piece! I liked the start, so I just divided it with a breaker. Sometimes people write just to write, and I understand where you’re coming from now. As a reader, its a bit confusing, but as a writer, I trust you understand why that is now.

    Also, the piece was supposed to be a video recording, with just the character speaking. That, to answer someone else’s question, is why there was “such a lack of description.”

    Honestly, I think people attack before they think.
    Wasn’t it Steinbeck that said, it’s a story do you want to read it or not?

    Merrilee, you should come up with another game! 🙂

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