1. Darkkin

    Darkkin Reflection of a nobody Contributor

    Jun 21, 2012
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    Following the footprints in the sand...

    Opening Volley: First Lines.

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Darkkin, Jul 1, 2012.

    Like the opening volley in a battle, what is in a first line? Should it be tame or rivet a reader's attention? Can an entire story be inspired by a single line? How much power does the opening line have? Can it make or break a piece?

    - Darkkin
  2. BFGuru

    BFGuru Active Member

    Aug 14, 2011
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    Somewhere in insomiaville
    Sometimes it does make the piece. Sometimes it just sets the scene for the piece to be made.

    The opening line of Kafka's Metamorphosis kind of steals the show. It sticks with you the entire story.

    Many of my favorite authors though, I could not tell you what the beginning scene even was. I get so wrapped up in the characters' lives that the opening line doesn't matter.
  3. Shane Grayson

    Shane Grayson New Member

    Jun 30, 2012
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    @BFGuru Ha! I planned on starting that short story tomorrow :D or as soon as I am done with The Stoker. An instructor of mine mentioned to our class one day that he pays strict attention to the opening paragraphs of any novel. I recently read Middlemarch by George Elliot, a great novel by the way, and the open just touched me right on the spot:

    Who that cares much to know the history of man, and how the mysterious mixture behaves under the varying experiments of Time, has not dwelt, at least briefly, on the life of Saint Theresa, has not smiled with some gentleness at the thought of the little girl walking forth one morning hand-in-hand with her still smaller brother, to go and seek martyrdom in the country of the Moors? George Elliot, Middlemarch.

    Other novels such as Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte starts with more of a personal, first person kind of narration. Both were kind of gripping, but I always prefer the larger picture such as the one shown here by Elliot. So my answer is, yes, I do believe that the opening lines of story can make or break it.
  4. Kaylin

    Kaylin New Member

    Jun 1, 2012
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    It really depends on the type of book, and the audience for the book.
    It should foreshadow events and give the reader an idea of the tone, the pacing, and the mood of the story.
    I think a successful first line holds inner and outer conflict.
  5. Mckk

    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

    Dec 30, 2010
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    The first line must grab the reader's attention - it can "break" the piece in as much as that the reader will stop reading after skimming the first few lines of your book. So will the agent, and the publisher, in all honesty. You lose their attention, it doesn't matter how great the rest of the piece is.
  6. killbill

    killbill Member

    Feb 27, 2012
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    where the mind is without fear...
    Unless you made grammar mistakes or something silly like that I don't think agents will stop reading after the first few lines.

    I mostly agree with kaylin if it is the first paragraph of a short story we are speaking about. But the first line don't have to have everything, just having one of those things will do.

    Anyway, I don't think too much about the opening line in my first draft. My first lines usually come to me after my first drafts just like my titles.

    Personally I don't like first lines which scream to grab my attention. I like those which subtly lure me to the next line.

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