Writing Academy, Memoirs, Novels, Short Stories, Book Proposals

New York City Writing Coach

Gay Walley

First of the year – first sentences

I came kicking and screaming. I mean to writing a blog. “I came kicking and screaming” is not a first sentence of an erotic novel. But it does make me reflect this January 1 on opening lines to stories and novels. Writers often forget how (*&^ important they are. I would venture to say agents probably make 60% of their mind up as to whether they will represent you based on them.
So let us pause for one second and admire some great opening lines. And then, if you’re game, reflect on your current work’s opening line.

From Richard Yates’ BUILDERS (one of my favorite short stories:
Writers who write about writers can easily bring on the worse kind of literary miscarriage; everybody knows that.
Richard Ford’s CANADA: First, I’ll tell about the robbery our parents committed.
Paula Fox’s BORROWED FINERY: When I was seventeen, I found a job in what was then downtown Los Angeles in a store where dresses were sold for a dollar each.
Jim Harrison’s THE LONG WAY HOME: It is easy to forget that in the main we die only seven times more slowly than our dogs.

I could go on. But what we do see is that most opening lines establish an intimacy between the reader and the story, a “Let me take you into my narrative world.”
I even just looked at the first line of my own first book, STRINGS ATTACHED, to see what I did. Here this is (I could rewrite this now!):
I want to know why, as I begin this story, I want to call my old lover who does not love me.

Most books/stories have marvelous opening lines. A treat. Go to yours and all you need to do, is connect with the feeling of your story, and that will give you the right images and words. Or a start which can be refined. But go to your depths and the right words will surface.
See you next week!