Stephen James Anastasi's picture
Stephen James A... from Queensland, Australia is reading The Trouble with Physics (Lee Smolin) March 18, 2014 - 10:20pm

What are your best ten first words for a story? Consider:

'Call me Ishmael.' (Moby Dick)

'It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.' (A Tale of Two Cities)

'The first ten words are more important than the next ten thousand,' is an adage that I think all writer's might make a fundamental tenet. Consider:

'She only stopped screaming when she died.' (Kane and Abel)

'There were two kinds of monster in Titian's life...' (The Druid)

First words ought to drive the reader forward, and the best ones, I think, create unspoken questions that the writer does not need to spell out. Why would a guy say 'Call me Ishmael?' What has he got to hide?

What could make a woman scream until she was dead?

Why two kinds of monster?

Your thoughts?

 

Gordon Highland's picture
Gordon Highland from Kansas City is reading Secondhand Souls by Christopher Moore March 19, 2014 - 8:33am

"No matter where you live in New York City, you always end up in Queens."

That's more than ten, sorry, but a quality opening nonetheless. I didn't even make it up, only took note when a pillot said it over the speaker during our descent to LaGuardia airport, regarding the cemeteries as far as the eye could see. Which spawned a story about a guy who's supposed to be dead finding himself living out some other parallel plane of the multiverse.

TheScrivener's picture
TheScrivener from Seattle is reading short stories March 19, 2014 - 7:47am

and the airports are in queens, so if you wanna get out... though i guess you could end up in Newark too.  I love the cemeteries, rented a car last summer just to go check them out.

Linda's picture
Linda from Sweden is reading Fearful Symmetries March 19, 2014 - 1:06pm

That's a great opening, Gordon. I wouldn't have known that's where folks are buried if you hadn't explained it just now, and even then, being thick as I am, I still had a few moments to appreciate the opening lines before making the connection, and they were good nevertheless. 

Jonathan Riley's picture
Jonathan Riley from Memphis, Tennessee is reading Flashover by Gordon Highland March 19, 2014 - 5:41pm

Are we doing our own? Or stories we've read? My own personal favorite opening was for a poem I wrote. But I love the opening so much I may scrap the rest of the poem and use it as a prompt and opening line for a noir tale.

"His hands look like skunk roadkill stinks."

L.W. Flouisa's picture
L.W. Flouisa from Tennessee is reading More Murakami March 19, 2014 - 5:47pm

"The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel." William Gibson

"Mallen woke up with the needle still in his arm." Robert K Lewis

I really love those short punchy first sentences.

I wrote one that went sort of like, "Julie wanted a certain rewind, but everything went fast forward."

Dave's picture
Dave from a city near you is reading constantly March 19, 2014 - 10:25pm

How I met her was, how I got this scar...

Stephen James Anastasi's picture
Stephen James A... from Queensland, Australia is reading The Trouble with Physics (Lee Smolin) March 20, 2014 - 1:15am

I think this thread could be about any best ten words, Jonathan: yours... others... ones only just born.

 

 

Stephen James Anastasi's picture
Stephen James A... from Queensland, Australia is reading The Trouble with Physics (Lee Smolin) March 20, 2014 - 1:21am

'You never want to fuck with the dark elements.'

Are these a great first nine words? Honest opinion only, please.

This has no book attached (and I have no supporting plot yet either - too busy with other stories). My fiancee says 'No.' Do you agree?

Gordon Highland's picture
Gordon Highland from Kansas City is reading Secondhand Souls by Christopher Moore March 20, 2014 - 4:37am

I disagree; that's intrguing as hell. It has a John Dies at the End type vibe.

The first line of my first novel was "My earliest memory is shitting the bathtub." I got a lot of good response to that one, because in addition to sounding silly and irreverent, is surprisingly relevant to what follows as well.

Thuggish's picture
Thuggish from Vegas is reading Day of the Jackal March 20, 2014 - 8:22am

^ ha ha, gordon, that one got my attention.

not fucking with the dark elements also grabs you, i like it.

 

this thread has gotten me thinking that i need to change my opening...  and how to do it...  hmmmm...

Jonathan Riley's picture
Jonathan Riley from Memphis, Tennessee is reading Flashover by Gordon Highland March 20, 2014 - 9:13am

Stephen A, it is intriguing. Especially if you can hold out on telling us why for a short while.

 

Dwayne's picture
Dwayne from Cincinnati, Ohio (suburbs) is reading books that rotate to often to keep this updated March 20, 2014 - 11:31am

Well I'd say it is more about the opening phrase or sentence, and less about the first 10 words, because my favorite is still the first 12 of "The Gunslinger" by Stephen King.

The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.

Covewriter's picture
Covewriter from Nashville, Tennessee is reading & Sons March 21, 2014 - 9:43pm

Dave I love your opening. I'm currently having trouble getting the "hook" in my first few paragraphs. I think I describe too much, which is good in some ways, but I need to get better at getting a fast hook and more plotting.

Stephen James Anastasi's picture
Stephen James A... from Queensland, Australia is reading The Trouble with Physics (Lee Smolin) March 22, 2014 - 9:20pm

Thanks for the +++'s everyone. I'll tell the fiancee she's out-voted (then duck!).

Covewriter, maybe pick out the best ten words from the first pages and put them at the top. Then you can go back a bit and show how you got to those ten words. For example, in 'The Druid,' I first began with 'There were two kinds of monster in Titian's life...' but this led to a dissertation on the first page. So I changed it to 'Titian ran. She ran so hard, the cold cut her...' I then followed her for a minute until something awful happened, then I cut to the two minutes before she ran, leading up to my original first ten words. Mind you, if it's literary, it might take an age to get to the point. That's why I don't read a lot of 'literary' fiction (To kill a mockingbird excepted).

Strange Photon's picture
Strange Photon from Fort Wayne, IN is reading Laurie Anderson lyrics March 24, 2014 - 5:55pm

Stephen, to me it's mildly intriguing, but reads like just one of the many in a long line of YA crapfests about magic. I could be wrong, but opinions never are.  :)

Stephen James Anastasi's picture
Stephen James A... from Queensland, Australia is reading The Trouble with Physics (Lee Smolin) April 14, 2014 - 4:09am

Nice effort at damning by faint praise, Strange Photon. I take it you chose not to read my YA novels.The first ten words about dark elements were in the context of the story of a private detective. Still, there you go.

Separately, I note that so often in the past, sentences tended to be exceptionally long, though still effective

Viz: "Observe, I do not mean to suggest that the custom of lying has suffered any decay or interruption - no, for the Lie, as a Virtue, A Principle, is eternal; the Lie, as a recreation, a solace, a refuge in time of need, the fourth Grace, the tenth Muse, man's best and surest friend, is immortal, and cannot perish from the earth while this club remains." (from Mark Twain, On the decay of the art of lying,  in an essay read at a meeting of the Historical and Antiquarian Club of Hartford).

Come on people. Give us YOUR ten words!

Stephen James Anastasi's picture
Stephen James A... from Queensland, Australia is reading The Trouble with Physics (Lee Smolin) April 14, 2014 - 4:23am

'They said I must die. They said I steal the breath from men.' (Burial rites, by Hannah Kent).