Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Killer First Sentences

Yeah, I'm attending WriteOnCon!  I just got done reading "How to Write a Killer First Sentence" by Jodi Meadows. She offers advice and lists examples of great firsts and why they are killer

Her closing question "What are some of your favorite first lines? Why?" inspired today's Writing Exercise.

Writing Exercise: Go get a stack of books. Write down the first line from each one. Evaluate each one. Did it work or not? Why? Share one of these in the Comment Section. My response is below.

I picked 5 books off my shelf.

Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson
The tired old carriage, upped by two tired old horses, rumbled onto the wharf, its creaky wheels bumpety-bumping on the uneven planks, waking Peter from his restless slumber.
Nope, didn't work for me, except for the fact that I knew the Peter he is speaking about is Peter Pan, which is why I bought the book. Don't get me wrong, I like carriages and wharfs, but the sentence is boring. So, let's read one more line to see if it gets better.
The carriage interior, hot and stuffy, smelled of five smallish boys and one largish man, none of whom was keen on bathing.
Yes, this worked for me and got my attention. It involved the sense of smell and it made me wonder why 6 of them were stuffed in. Where were they going? To a ship? I want to read more to find out.

Wobegon Boy by Garrison Keillor
 I am a cheerful man, even in the dark, and its all thanks to a good Lutheran mother.
It works for me! I am hooked and I haven't even read the book yet (it is my husband's). I will add it to my reading list. First, happy and dark don't go together, so that's intriguing and then throw in a Lutheran mother. I want to read just to see where he can possibly go with that!

Pocketful of Names by Joe Coomer
The first thing Hannah said to the dog: "I don't know if there's enough room for you on this island. I'm already here." 
Yes, it works. Will she keep the dog? I want to know. You already learn a lot about Hannah from these two sentences. She is a loner. Will she let anyone into her world?

For Whom The Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway
He lay flat on the brown, pine-needled floor of the forest, his chin on his folded arms, and high overhead the wind blew in the tops of the pine trees.
Nope, didn't work for me. I thought it was boring, so I read one more line about a mountainside and a road, but I was still bored. 

Redwall by Brian Jacques
Matthias cut a comical little figure as he wobbled his way along the cloisters, with his large sandals flip-flopping and his tail peeping from beneath the baggy folds of an oversized novice's habit.
Yes, it worked for me! I can exactly imagine the character and I like him! I want to know more about the little critter. I can picture the young mouse tripping over his own feet.

Now, it's your turn! Please share a first sentence and why it worked or didn't work for you!