July 11th, 2014


"The Art of the Opening Sentence," by Jonathan Russell Clark

I just read this essay on the opening sentence by Jonathan Russell Clark. This is probably the worst possible thing you can do when you are struggling with a piece of writing, and you find yourself unable to wrangle your plot and its pacing, much less your character development, much less your language, much less the style and intent of your dumb opening sentence, BUT. It came up on my RSS, so there you go. XP

Also, in spite of the title, FEAR NOT, this is not prescriptivist "how to write" crap.

It's actually a really interesting piece; and Clark spends a lot of time analyzing and celebrating some of his favorite opening sentences, what makes them great, and how opening sentences can... not so much fail, but become cause for concern or confusion or maybe disappointment. It's got a historical bent to it, and he covers an array of different kinds of opening sentences in novels that's really satisfying to see gone through--even just for the sheer enormity of that array.

Anyway, yes, interesting reading! If you like this kind of thing, READ IT. If you are currently writing and not at the point where you have the luxury of contemplating your opening sentence, do not. XD

Since Clark mentions that he has something of an obsession with remembering the first lines of books, I wondered if any of you had a similar interest? Or could remember any off the top of your head? I'm certain there are plenty of famous ones we could all recognize immediately.

The first sentence of the book I just started reading: "The first time the Jean-Claude Pelletier read Benno von Archimboldi was Christmas 1980, in Paris, when he was nineteen years old and studying German literature."

--2666, by Roberto Bolaño, trans. Natasha Wimmer

The only first sentence(s) I have memorized: "124 was spiteful. Full of a baby's venom. The women of the house all knew it, and so did the children."

--Beloved, the mere mention of which makes me want to drop everything and do nothing but read more Toni Morrison

The first sentence of the fic I am writing: "Sam wakes down out of a dream."


The first sentence of the fic I just finished reading and loved <3: "Lisa Braeden kept a calendar on the pantry door."

-- Kin and Keeper, by steeplechasers

And now I'd like to turn is survey back to you! :3 First sentence of the book you're reading? The fic you're reading? The fic you're writing?? And thoughts on any of those sentences?

Apart from my clear enmity toward writing this week (screw you words, screw you plot, screw you Sam and Dean especially YOU SUCK I HATE YOU!!), I actually do have pleasant a relationship with that opening sentence. XD I get the impression that many people are either confused by or distasteful of that kind of formal "gimmick," but I like playing with prepositional idioms, so... too bad for them, really.