View Full Version : That most important first line.
September 7th, 2001, 06:26 AM
I thought perhaps this topic needed it's own thread.
It was the best of times, it was the . . . well, you know the rest.
What makes a good opening, that all important first line. It's the first impression the reader gets, aside from the cover work of course. http://www.sffworld.com/ubb/biggrin.gif
I think each story has a perfect place to begin, it's just a matter of finding that place. Every tale becomes interesting at some point. Our job is to determine when to begin the tale. For instance, The Hobbit didn't become interesting until Bilbo's life was interrupted and he was pulled into the adventure of his life. But I suppose the story could have begun earlier when Bilbo was born, but then I suppose there'd have been a lot of boring paragraphs about life underhill.
I have some stories that begin seemingly in the middle of a fight or argument, most though begin with some type of description of a room / person. Some of those lead quickly into a conversation. Some have several paragraphs before any dialogue.
I think it's all about the story and the tone and atmosphere that the writer is trying to set for the rest of the story that is important.
September 7th, 2001, 08:30 AM
Personaly, I like it when the writer sets the scene at the beginning of (a) the story and (b) each chapter. So you know were you "are" and who you "see". Except, of course, if the writer wants to create mystery, not telling you. This works, sometimes. But, at the beginning of a book...??
September 7th, 2001, 08:42 PM
Unlike ending a story, beginning a story has limitless possibilities. Any beginning that is well written and creates a suitable atmosphere is good. Endings however are much more linnear because they either make or break a story. The most important aspect of the beginning i think is to drive the reader into turning the page and continue reading. There are many short stories that i couldn't get myself to finish because they had such a boring beginning. The Currents of Space and the Stars like dust are two examples. They are both novels for Issac Asimov. The first one however has a really boring beginning, unlike the Stars like Dust which began with a much faster tempo and i enjoyed it much more.
Well thats my opinion. (and i still dunno how to write smilies, argh)
[This message has been edited by NeoXP (edited September 08, 2001).]
September 7th, 2001, 09:14 PM
The one memorable first line that has stuck in my minds is...
"The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed"... The Gunslinger, Stephen King
It made it feel as if we were joining the story in the middle of things, that there was a raft of history behind the book already... as it turns out, this is the case... but it sticks in my mind as the best opening line, or should I say... the one I remember. I am not an author, but that one line had my intrest from the word go.
September 7th, 2001, 09:29 PM
I'm usually okay with getting that first line down - it's after that when I hit the wall sometimes! http://www.sffworld.com/ubb/smile.gif
Whether my opening lines are well written I'll leave to the readers to decide. But I think my favourite opening lines were in Orson Scott Card's The Lost Boys novel (not the short story of the same name); every chapter started with similiar sentences, sort of a theme of opening lines I guess!
[This message has been edited by erebus (edited September 08, 2001).]
September 7th, 2001, 10:26 PM
I have to respectfully disagree. Although there are several openings that can work, I think there is only one opening that is THE right one for each story. But that's just my opinion. http://www.sffworld.com/ubb/wink.gif
http://www.sffworld.com/ubb/smile.gif = : ) without the space
http://www.sffworld.com/ubb/frown.gif = : ( without the space
http://www.sffworld.com/ubb/biggrin.gif = : D without the space
http://www.sffworld.com/ubb/wink.gif = ; ) without the space
There are others, but I'm not sure if they work on this forum.
[This message has been edited by KATS (edited September 08, 2001).]
September 8th, 2001, 01:56 AM
In a sense I agree. True their are openning lines that are more influential than others. Still though they are pretty hard to find.
From personal experiance, i find it much more fruitful to bang my head to the wall(metaphorically of course http://www.sffworld.com/ubb/smile.gif) trying to establish a sound, not overused philosophical base for my story rather than thinking about a "perfect" openning line.
And thanks for the emoticons note http://www.sffworld.com/ubb/wink.gif. It is really helpful http://www.sffworld.com/ubb/smile.gif
September 8th, 2001, 05:03 AM
They were torturing the priest when the stranger stepped out of the trees. WAYLANDER, David Gemmell.
The most memorable first line I've ever come across - more amazing when you learn the story of its origin. Gemmell was giving a workshop to young writers and was talking about the importance of first lines... some of his are amazing (apart from "But he wasn't dead." from the second Jon Shannow novel) when a student said: "So, give us an example of a good first line," and that is what came out of David's mouth, without a thought, and Waylander the Slayer was born. Waylander is perhaps Gemmell's most popular character (either that or Druss the Legend). He went home and finished the scene- for those who don't know it, the slayer faces 5 armed bandits who stole his horse. After sorting out the problems with the bandits the priest asks: "Cut me down."
"Give me one good reason why I should?" replies Waylander.
"I'll die if you don't."
"Not good enough."
It's an amazing chapter - 8 pages of magic. But then Gemmell is a special writer. I'm glad he's finally getting recognition in the US. The whole chapter worked on not knowing WHO the stranger was...
September 9th, 2001, 01:17 AM
I think first lines or even the first paragraph is important. I find a story that starts off in history boring and i find quite often i will not continue the story.
I think you need some thing to catch the readers attention. A dangerous beginning, a action start or a mysterious start : )
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