A screenwriter comes home to a burned down house. His sobbing and slightly-singed wife is standing outside. “What happened, honey?” the man asks.
“Oh, John, it was terrible,” she weeps. “I was cooking, the phone rang. It was your agent. Because I was on the phone, I didn’t notice the stove was on fire. It went up in second. Everything is gone. I nearly didn’t make it out of the house. Poor Fluffy is—”
“Wait, wait. Back up a minute,” The man says. “My agent called?”
Care to share a joke or two?
What could possibly go wrong today? A full moon and Friday 13th. For me it has always been a good day. How about you?
I thought this literary coffee display was worth sharing today.
This one will make you groan!
Q: What would you get if you crossed a locomotive with the author of Tom Sawyer?
A: A choo-choo Twain.
As writers we want to grip our readers from that all important first line. It is not an easy task and can consume our thoughts for days, weeks or even months.
Today I want to share some of my first lines:
The Rython Kingdom. A romantic adventure set in medieval England.
“He’s coming! He’s coming! Guillem Ruet is here!”
Guillem smiled at the group of children running beside his horse as he rode toward the castle’s drawbridge. Dirty and barefooted, these youngsters would not be lucky enough to hear his newest tale, first hand. That pleasure would be for the inner court alone. It was a strange and most complex tale and all the more mysterious for being made of a dream.
I have introduced the protagonist, where he is and the source of the story’s basis.
Ockleberries to the Rescue. A children’s chapter book telling the story of magical woodland sprites and their forest animal friends.
Curled into a ball with his bushy red tail across his snout, Swift twitched in his sleep. He helped Tansy the previous evening by dashing to the aid of a rabbit. Now his mind replayed his hurried course through the forest to the sprites home.
Again I have the main characters, their home and their a hint of their adventures.
Working on first lines takes effort and we change them time and again. This is true of my latest novel, Life in Slake Patch. It has been revisited many times in the 10 years since I began writing. It was my first NaNoWriMo and the most I had written up t that point. This year I promised myself I would complete it.
Life in Slake Patch. A speculative fiction novel of a matriarchy world and one young man’s journey that changes everything.
Jacob’s persuasion for me to look at an extraordinary book had gotten the better of my curiosity. He led the way down the steps into the old library basement. The building, whose very structure of stone blocks was in stark contrast to our log buildings, stood as a relic of a world before the Grand War.
We understand this is not the present age and two people are gripped in a a secret together.
My next book will be launched on 1st October at a local event called Words in the Park.
Clickety Click. A YA adventure mystery of a young girl who discovers a huge secret, which has astonishing changes for her and those around her.
Its eyes widened as it grew closer and closer to her face. Alice was paralyzed with fear, clutching her bedcovers with white knuckled fingers. The creature’s mauve skin glistened with slime and drops fell onto its spindly pointed claws. Alice opened and closed her mouth willing her voice to sound in the dark bedroom. The claws clicked together as the monster’s jaw opened. Click. Click. Clickety-click.
I have introduced Alice, my protagonist and the cause of her terror.
I read a multiple of genres but some of my favorite first lines are:
The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton
It was dark where she was crouched but the little girl did as she’d been told. The lady said to wait, it wasn’t safe yet, they had to be quiet as larder mice.
Ferney by James Long.
As he looked for the bones of his long-dead wife, old Ferney came close to death. Caught in the traffic jam that resulted, Gally Martin’s life changed.
The Map of Time by Felix de Palma
Andrew Harrington would have gladly died several times over if that meant not having to choose just one pistol among his father’s vast collection in the living room cabinet. Decisions had never been Andrew’s strong point.
The Lovely Bones by Alice Seebold
My name is Salmon, like the fish; first name, Susie. I was fourteen when I was murdered on December 6, 1973.
Room by Emma Donoghue
Today I’m five, I was four last night going to sleep in Wardrobe, but when I wake up in Bed in the dark I’m changed to five, abracadabra.
I could fill this post with Stephen King first lines, as you all know he is my hero.
It by Stephen King
“The event that came to be known as The Pulse began at 3:03 p.m., eastern standard time, on the afternoon of October 1.”
What are your favorite first lines?
Do you re-write your first lines over and over?
Some of you may know I’m in the midst of working with an illustrator for my upcoming children’s chapter book, Ockleberries to the Rescue. Each chapter will have a drawing of the animal or event that is within the narrative. I count myself lucky to know my artist from within my writing group. Not only is he the current President but a good friend. Joe McKnight’s pencil drawings are similar in style to Bernie Brown’s wonderful pictures. This is the reason I choose him, I want realistic drawings of the animals. As most of the internal pictures are completed, my thoughts have turned to the cover. I have a specific image in mind, which will reveal the woodland sprites home, however I am not including an image of the sprites, I want the children to imagine them.
When we work with an artist it is paramount to have good communication and be able to describe the ‘vision’ we have for the illustrations. With Joe, I can have face to face discussions as well as email communication and have supplied him with sketches/images to assist him. When I worked with Matty McClatchie on Rumble’s First Scare, we only had the option of email as he was in Australia and I was in Canada. His style is wonderfully stylized and suited Rumble’s world so well. We frequently underestimate the power of technology but this is proof it can work to our advantage. No matter where our artist may be situated we can work together to create our ideal images.
With a cover we must take into account the initial response of our potential readers and ensure it has its own style. Ask yourself:
Does the cover reflect the story?
Is it eye catching?
Does it reflect the genre?
As you can see from these revised covers for the Harry Potter saga, covers can evolved.
It is interesting how much more ‘action’ there is in the new covers and the style is more dramatic. Understand you can change your cover at any time – feedback from readers is important in ensuring the book cover encourages more people to purchase it. You can have a re-launch, an anniversary re-issue or upload a new cover for an e-book. Just because your book is published doesn’t mean you should forget about it. Constant promotion and revision will keep it fresh and engage new readers.
A cover is an important part of any book and time should be spent in creating it. Here are some useful tips for cover design:
How did you decide on your book (s) cover?
Did you use your own photographs, commission or draw you own drawings or manipulate images some other way?
Why not share your cover?
I recently contributed to a fund to help buy a book store. Even though it was thousands of miles away from where I live, I felt it was important to be proactive. Happily, the store was saved from closure by a local person, who has taken over the lease. The lure of ‘one stop’ shopping is hard to resist in a hurried life but once you experience a ‘local’ store and become a regular, you will see the benefits are wide ranging. There is a personal connection, something that is lost in a vast warehouse style mega store. The proprietor will remember you and may put aside books they feel will be of interest to you. There is time to chat and browse without rushing through a shopping list of multiple items.
This week saw a famous author use a large sum to assist small book stores and I think that is not just excellent on his part but also hopefully the spear head for others to follow. Thank you, James Patterson.
Nothing leads so straight to futility as literary ambitions without systematic knowledge. H. G. Wells
To understand a literary style, consider what it omits. Mason Cooley