Sunday, October 22, 2006

Behind the Lines

Ten Writers' Opening Lines, and What They Were Thinking When They Wrote Them

1. "Call me Ishmael."

Yeah, good name. Not like Herman, you know. Herman. Oy. What am I, a Munster? What kind of mother names her kid that, anyway? I swear, that woman hated me from the minute I was born. I'm never going to write about women. Men only. Big, manly men. Big, manly men who piss off whales, and who aren't named Herman.

2. "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way--in short, the period was so."

How do I start this book off then? Go with the positive claptrap, or the negative claptrap? Oh, ballocks, I'll write both. A big long useless paragraph of both. Let them think it was the dichotomy of my literary genius instead of this bloody damn bipolar disorder.

3. "I write this sitting in the kitchen sink."

I'm writing this sitting in the kitchen sink. Cool.

4. "Into whatever houses I enter, I will go into them for the benefit of the sick."

Decent quote opener. Not as much fun as the thinly-veiled anecdote about the colonel, the misplaced hot dog and how I almost got court martialed for laughing my ass off in a trauma room, but not like this is ever going to get published.

5. "Over the weekend the vultures got into the presidential palace by pecking through the screens on the balcony windows and the flapping of their wings stirred up the stagnant time inside, and at dawn on Monday the city awoke out of its lethargy of centuries with the warm, soft breeze of a great man dead and rotting grandeur."

Hello, my name is Gabriel, and I have period phobia, so I make my English translator, Sancho, use mostly commas to keep my beautiful prose from being interrupted by that sort of crude punctuation and allow me to drift into endless descriptions of my beautiful vultures which remind me of the prostitutes I ogled as a boy in Cadiz . . . or was it Madrid . . . [margin note: Sancho! My God! Not ellipses! They spawn!]

6. "Shortly before being shot in the back with a tranquilizer dart and dumped half-dazed on a stretcher, right before being stolen from the hospital by silent men in white coats, Elena Baxter stood at the end of a dying child's bed, her hand on a small bare foot, and attempted to perform a miracle."

Baby, you just got backstory-opening-line whomped.

7. " then the guy sits up on the stretcher, says 'I don't feel so good,' and turns this incredible shade of blue."

Ladies and gentlemen, the captain has just turned on the fasten your seatbelts sign. So buckle up. Right now.

8. "The day broke gray and dull."

Take that, you dark and stormy night writers.

9. "The last camel collapsed at noon."

What will remind my editor that he hasn't sent me my advance check for this novel yet? Last straw . . . camel . . . got it.

10. "The story that follows is one I never intended to commit to paper."

I got a big book deal and you didn't, neener neener neener.


  1. LMAO!!

    Tears! Tears are streaming, I tell you! (oh, that'd make a good opening line *g*)

    Great stuff, PBW.

    Patrice (who has duly edited her eBook and is now waiting for a buddyolepalofmine to make it into a PDF file. Will send you my info after that.)

  2. I won't be sending a file. I promise. :)

    Oh, I also saw you edited your eBook cover a bit,too. Looks good! I've got a cover. It's verra basic and at first the colors reminded me of a murder mystery cover, but I tweaked it some. Maybe now it represents the story a bit, I hope.

  3. Anonymous2:59 AM

    2. Gotta get that entry in early for the Bulwer-Lytton contest.

    3. Way to get the reader's attention...

    7. So all we have left were colors and excitement? Let's not fix gray and dull--- we're quite all right without them.

  4. Hah! Always good for a laugh, S. (Not that I wonder what they were thinking, obviously some of them weren't thinking at all!)

    And since I've just started reading number 7., I'll take your advice to heart.

  5. Anonymous7:04 AM

    No way, Jaye! I just started number seven, too!

  6. #6 is a kick-butt opener. Perfect for the story!

  7. Please?
    My keyboard is new...

  8. "Let them think it was the dichotomy of my literary genius instead of this bloody damn bipolar disorder."

    LMAO! That was great. :)

  9. I know you've not thrown the floor open to questions, but I have to know how you'd interpret this one:

    "In five years, the penis will be obsolete." (Steel Beach, John Varley)

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  11. Anonymous9:30 AM

    Noel Lynne Figart wrote: I know you've not thrown the floor open to questions, but I have to know how you'd interpret this one:

    "In five years, the penis will be obsolete." (Steel Beach, John Varley)

    The Viagra isn't working. Neither is my Burt Reynolds mustache and Grizzly Adams beard. No one is comparing me to Heinlein anymore. And the only people buying books are romance readers! Hmmmm....I know, I'll scare all the chicks into buying my books.

  12. Too funny. If the first line doesn't grab you....shove it back on the shelf!

  13. I haven't had nearly enough sleep because my first thought was penises (or should that be peni?) in general will be obsolete, or are we talking a specific penis that will be obsolete?

    In more uplifting news my story is done and off to be pdf-ified.

  14. Anonymous5:19 PM

    priceless. absolutely priceless.

  15. your translations are so much more interesting.

  16. Anonymous11:20 AM

    I'm pretty sure at least two of those lines are actual lines in books. ^_^ I think I've read them before.

    Anyway. Great laugh as usual. Love your comments!

  17. ROFLMAO! My favorites are the really, really long ones that make you have to pause for a breath when reading them out loud...


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