Well crafted prose doesn’t necessarily create great opening lines
This post is the second in a series on what makes any story’s – flash through novel – opening line great. Part 1 provided some background and why opinions only matter if you know enough about a subject to make an informed decision.
Let me know what you think are great opening lines and I’ll include them in the series provided you explain what makes them great.
Where an elegantly crafted sentence doesn’t matter (as much) is with the first, opening line of a story (any length, any genre, fiction). Nancy Ann Dibble (writing as Ansen Dibell) wrote in Plot “…every effective beginning needs to do three things”:
- Get the story going and show what kind of story it’s going to be.
- Introduce and characterize the protagonist.
- Engage the reader’s interest in reading on.
Get past the technical and a great opening line must take the reader into the mythic, specifically the story’s mythic; its setting, plot, characters and so on. At best it’ll propel the reader into the story’s mythic, at the least it’ll invite the reader into the story’s mythic and anything combining those two is over the top good.
A great opening line offers the reader no room for escape, no chance for egress, no opportunity to back away. I state it simply as “You’re either in or you’re out.” A good opening line should either put the reader firmly in the story or leave them at the door, wishing them well, hoping they catch the next train and leaving them to other, more enjoyable journeys.
Again, subjectivity wins.
Continue reading “Great Opening Lines – and Why! (Part 2 -What Makes a Great Opening Line?)”
The difference between a good Scotch, a good wine and a good sentence has a lot to do with being a good mechanic
This post is the first in a series on what makes any story’s – flash through novel – opening line great. Let me know what you think are great opening lines and I’ll include them in the series provided you explain what makes them great.
Stanley Fish’s How to Write a Sentence: And How to Read One is a good, fun read.
Fish writes about beautiful sentences and how they’re constructed. He offers that Strunk&White is useful only if you already know lots of grammar and such. I’ve got no problem with that (have you read Strunk&White? It’s a treasure trove. Are you an author or author-wannabe? Do yourself a favor and read it).
Strunk&White is basically a mechanic’s manual for producing clear, understandable content in the English language, meaning unless you’re willing to get a set of wrenches and such and unless you’re willing to open the hood or climb under your sentence, don’t read the book, you won’t understand it and will probably do both yourself and your prose harm if you do.
Continue reading “Great Opening Lines – and Why! (Part 1 – Introduction)”
You see a lot, doctor. But can you point that high-powered perception at yourself? What about it? Why don’t you – why don’t you look at yourself and write down what you see? Or maybe you’re afraid to…
– Clarice Starling in The Silence of the Lambs
If you’ve read Writers’ Groups – Introduction, Writers’ Groups – Critiques and Butchers, Bakers and Candlestick Makers then you know I’m on a quest.
To find a critique group that does critiques as I do them.
Continue reading “So I gave myself an exercise (eating my own dogfood)…”