Saturday, 4 May 2013

Excitement and adventure from the very beginning

This is a really great and exciting opening sentence that will grab your attention straight away and make you want to read the rest of this post.

Well, maybe not, but I thought I might try it anyway.

I've been reading blog posts about opening sentences. I know, I shouldn't be doing it. I'm so opinionated as it is, all that's going to happen is I'm going to get all hot under the collar about other people telling me what to write and how to write. If I want to start my stories in a way that someone else doesn't think stories should be started, that's totally my business.

Once I got over that, I did have a bit of a think about it (I know, that's not always a good idea either). As it is, I reckon the opening sentences in my books are actually not too bad. So what if the opening to my fantasy story is pretty much exactly how I was told not to start a fantasy story. And if my detective story opens in a way that I'm told a detective story should never open. I can live with that, because that's just the kind of person I am.

So I really wasn't too concerned about changing the opening sentences for my stories. But what I was concerned about was my blog. Maybe one of the reasons I always seem to get bugger all hits on my blog is because my opening sentences are crap. Maybe it's time to reassess my approach to how I start up each of these posts.

Obviously, I need to cut to the chase, get straight into the serious blog action, and not beat around the bush with my usual form of bloggy blah. No more meandering along with sentences like "It's a lovely sunny day as I sit at my computer, looking out the window at a flock of birds effortlessly dancing through the air in tight formation" or "I sit at my desk, a tall, slim man with black-brown hair and a drawn expression on my face as I try to force my brain into action". Oh no, we're going clean and mean and no messing around.

Mind you, I seem to have hit a problem right away. Get straight into the action? What sort of action am I talking about? I'm beginning to get a feeling that it isn't just the beginnings that are a problem for my blog - I suspect the middles are also a bit of an issue. And also, given that I have no idea what this is actually leading to, I think I may have a problem with endings as well. for coming. See you next week.



  1. I’ve written about this before too, here. My favourite opening line actually comprises two sentences:

    'It was the day my grandmother exploded. I sat in the crematorium, listening to my Uncle Hamish quietly snoring in harmony to Bach's Mass in B Minor, and I reflected that it always seemed to be death that drew me back to Gallanach.' - Iain Banks, The Crow Road

    I think people fuss too much about opening lines/pages/chapters. I know why they do but I don’t think they should. It’s kowtowing to the lowest common denominator. If you’re a popular fiction writer and want to sell a lot of books then, yes, by all means find out exactly what people are looking for and give it to them but personally I give people a little more credit than that. If someone’s going to give up on any author after a couple of hundred words then I’m not sure I want that person reading my books.

    As far as first lines go let me tell you about the first sentence of my first novel. This is it:

    ‘Had it been Death that had called that day everything would have been all right.

    I worked out once—don’t ask me how—that I’d spent twenty-four hours rewriting that first sentence and to tell you the truth I still don’t like it that much but here’s the thing: I wrote that sentence in the mid-nineties; about ten years later I finally got round to publishing it; at that time I pulled out the very first draft of the book and the sentence, which I must’ve thought about for, oh, twenty seconds before actually writing it, was exactly the same—exactly. What a waste of time.

    As far as getting straight into the action goes none of my books have much action in them anyway so it’s a bit of a moot point. Most films don’t. There’re a few minutes to ease us into the experience and then all hell breaks loose. When you first start reading you’re entering a new world (even if it’s set in this ol’ world) and I for one want a few minutes to acclimatise, to familiarise myself with the setting and who’s who. As I said, any reader who doesn’t have at least that amount of patience isn’t really one I’m much interested in.

    1. Hi Jim,

      I agree - I'd like to trust readers enough that they can make a bit of effort to get into a story without judging it on the opening line. And let's face it, there are a heap of "classics" that would probably not pass muster if that was the main judging criteria.