Friday, October 26th, 2012

Writing Prompt – Great Beginnings

I’m currently finishing up a novel and getting ready to start a new one. I’m thinking a lot about beginnings.

The opener, or hook, of a novel — and especially a short story — is the most important part of the tale. It’s what attracts the reader to your story, and — one hopes — is enticing enough to keep them reading.

But this post isn’t about writing good hooks. It’s about using what’s already out there to help us in our own writing. (I’ll get to that.)

Some authors have been so successful in writing good hooks that the first lines of their books have made it into popular vernacular and used even by folks who have not read the book. (And maybe, don’t know what they’re quoting!)

Do you know these famous first lines?

  • It was a pleasure to burn. – [Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury, 1953]
  • Call me Ishmael. – [Moby Dick, Herman Melville, 1851] 
  • Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. – [Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy, 1877] 

Here’s Your Prompt:

Choose one of the famous first lines below and start writing where it leaves off. For more creative freedom, you might want to choose a line from a book you’ve never read (or have no assumptions about). Type or write the famous line first, and keep going. When you’re done, delete the famous first line and see what you’ve got!

  1. It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife. – [Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen, 1813] 
  2. I am an invisible man. – [The Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison, 1952] 
  3. It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. – [1984, George Orwell, 1949] 
  4. The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel. – [Neuromancer, William Gibson, 1984] 
  5. “I’ve watched through his eyes. I’ve listened through his ears, and I tell you he’s the one. Or at least as close as we’re going to get. – [Ender’s Game, Orson Scott Card, 1994.] 
  6. There was a wall. It did not look important. It was built of uncut rocks roughly mortared. – [The Dispossessed, Ursula K. Le Guin, 1974] 
  7. It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents, except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind… – [Paul Clifford, Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, 1830] 
  8. 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. – [A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens, 1859] 

Good luck!

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