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Variation of First Lines Meme

The (Cyber) Bag of Weasels

bread and puppet




"About as much fun as a bag of weasels"...when I first saw this Irish adage, it made me think of the life of a writer: sometimes perilous, sometimes painful, certainly interesting. My paper journal has always been called "The Bag of Weasels." This is the Bag of Weasels' online home.

Variation of First Lines Meme

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cliffhanger
Sorry, pandemonium_213, for the m-word. Can we come up with a better one? ;)

This is a variation of the m-word thingy about first lines of stories. I think the original intention is to post the first line of the first story posted each month. However, I am going to list the first lines of all stories written this year. There is a method behind my madness: I wish to see if I am getting into any annoying habits where first lines are concerned.

January
The Tapestries, Chapter Eight
In the height of rebellion, it is easy to forget the little details that will later form the bulk of one’s concerns.

Akliya (flocked)
The ship comes on the night of the darkened moon when the tide is its highest and it is least treacherous to pass the sandbar at the mouth of the harbor.

February ... Apparently, I didn't write, which isn't particularly surprising, since I usually get depressed and uninspired at this time of the year.

March
Statues
I found him in the garden, with his back to me, shoulders hunched, busy with something that lay across the lawn.

April ... Again, no writing! Why? Oh yeah. I was designing the effing archive and buying a house. Right. So ...

May
The Fall of the Sun (flocked)
The blade sings lightly against the whetstone, and Anige matches her voice to it, a single quavering note.

Cogs (flocked)
I was there the day the queen died, standing silently in the corner, in my place.

June ... See April for notes on archive and house. Note to flist: do not attempt to procure online and offline home simultaneously. Bad idea.

July
The Coveted
She was the only one who ever asked: How do you feel about them?

Manwë's Birthday Party, "Valmar of Many Bells"
"Blast these bells!" Manwë muttered to himself as he paced the length of his halls and attempted to rub away a flourishing headache.

August ... I was doing a lot of work on The Small and Secret Things at this time, but I'm not going to post first lines for those here. There ended up being thirty-six of them, they're all ficlets--some as short as 100 words--and I'm honestly more concerned about the first lines of my longer works. So there.

But I did write a story (that I almost forgot) for heartofoshun!

The Scribe and the Heir
"--like Fëanáro."

September
Green Knight Story (flocked)
On the longest night of the year, the sun sank early and shadows crept long across the land.

Journeys of Vása ... This is a series of vignettes, so I'll give the first line of each.

I. Eclipse
When first did I know thee?

II. Innocence Reclaimed
I don't think that, in hundreds of years of service, I have ever heard the Aulendili fall into such utter silence.

III. Bureaucracy
He is an earnest-faced youth, reminiscent of my son Findekáno when he was still innocent and young, and enamored of knowledge for the simple sake of knowing it.

October
Hazard (flocked)
I stare at the pill in the palm of my hand, lying in the sweaty creases that are supposed to indicate my destiny, and I think, I don't need it, a tip of my palm and a flush and it's gone, and I can prove, once and for all, that I am "normal." That I don't need it.

The Tower (flocked)
Ada Abbott was to be the bride of the Lord of Drakemore, and she arrived at the castle on a rain-soaked evening, having come by perilous road across the moors under clouds laying low across the land as though seeking to smother it.

The Boardwalk (flocked)
There aren't many of us left now.

A Concise Guide to Avoiding Death and Profound Suffering while Traveling on a Road Trip, Based on Revelations Provided by the Modern Horror Film Industry (flocked)
I knew this was a bad idea.

Cirque Sanguine (flocked)
Deep in the bottommost drawer of her bureau, where she hoped was least likely to be searched, beneath coarsecloth underclothes and rolls of knee-high woolen socks and petticoats stained by age and hard work, Nissa keeps a single pair of bright red tights, given to her by Master Sangfellow precisely one year earlier on this day.

November
NaNoWriMo (unpublished, untitled, and unfinished)
The invasion came to Palaran in the 848th Turn as they mark their time, and it is said that the south seas that day turned black with the sails of the Morduthi ships.

Stars of the Lesser
It was a cold and blustery day as Pengolodh picked his way down the rocks to the sea.

December
For What I Wait
I have filled the teacup to brimming, and I totter from the kitchen to the bedroom, trying not to slosh hot tea upon my hand.

Rekindling
Gently, Nerdanel patted the soil into place around the base of the sapling.

To Forgive ... This is a series of four fixed-length ficlets, so I'll give the first line of each.

I. Unforgiving--Fëanáro
My restless fingers rove across everything.

II. Broken--Maitimo
A crash from upstairs rouses me from my book.

III. The Spiderweb--Nolofinwë
It is the first fair morning of spring, and while out riding, I found a spiderweb bejeweled in dew, stretched between two trees.

The Ghost in the Garden
It was a humid night in the midst of the midsummer celebration, and the air was heavy and thick.




Hmmm ...

It seems that I like to start with mundane or seemingly insignificant actions ("Gently, Nerdanel patted the soil into place around the base of the sapling," "I found him in the garden, with his back to me, shoulders hunched, busy with something that lay across the lawn") or descriptions ("On the longest night of the year, the sun sank early and shadows crept long across the land," "It was a humid night in the midst of the midsummer celebration, and the air was heavy and thick"). I can't say that I find this particularly annoying, although I might want to be aware of my opening lines a bit more and try some new things.

Opening lines are tricky. I remember when I still read fiction for Anti-Com, one of the comments I made most often to authors whose stories we weren't going to publish had to do with opening lines: Drop me into the story as soon as you can. And whatever you do, don't use the first paragraph to wax philosophical about the themes or what you hope I as the reader will "get" out of the story.

I remember once reading a piece of fiction that was six paragraphs long ... and in Paragraph Four, the author decided to start introducing the actual story, like characters and plot and all that fluffy stuff. Before that, it was literally a page of mumbling on and on and on with all these beautiful lines about the Meaning of Life™ and all these lovely, elaborate metaphors ... the only problem was that all of this mumbo-jumbo had absolutely no context and so it was pretty words against a blank white background. I think that I advised that author to start with Paragraph Four and work the best lines from the first three paragraphs--some of which were quite good--into the actual story, rather than delivering them as a single glob to the reader right off the bat.

But anyway. I think--I hope--that I don't do anything so annoying. The only first line here that I think might count as Waxing Philosophical comes from The Tapestries ("In the height of rebellion, it is easy to forget the little details that will later form the bulk of one’s concerns"), and this is actually the first line to Chapter Eight, but since Chapter Eight was the first chapter that I posted in '07, I decided to include it anyway. Just for kicks and giggles, the actual first line to "The Tapestries," posted in November of '06, is

It’s a funny thing, dying.


Which is a pretty decent line, as far as my first lines go, I think. I think it would make me want to read on. It's certainly attention-grabbing, to me, "Oooooh, who is this guy and what does he know about dying?" and all that.

I did notice that the first lines I like the best tend to belong to my horror stories. (Check October. These are all horror stories for Haunted October [flocked].) I think that, if I was a reader choosing which of these stories to read based on the first line, I would probably choose one of these. I think that many of them do make one wonder, "What is going on here?" which is a good thing in a first line, I think.

Of course, part of the reason that my fanfic beginnings tend to be bland is because the plots to my fanfic tend to be a little bland. They are largely character-driven. So those mundane moments really do say something, like Nerdanel planting trees in the minutes before the apocalypse in "Rekindling." As ladyelleth (for whom the story was written) commented on the first line,

I realized that the story worked so well because it was set against the backdrop of something so mundane, and something that fit her so well. After all Feanor and his sons did, however long ago that was, I can see her trying to heal things, everything. Planting trees may be a modern association to that, but it's still - life. The sapling's fist-leaf made that very clear, so it is not a surprise that she is gardening, and always was. She's a mother.


Which was pretty much what I was trying to do. (Thanks, Elleth!)

Original character-driven stories (like Akliya [flocked]) tend to have the same mundane first lines ("The ship comes on the night of the darkened moon when the tide is its highest and it is least treacherous to pass the sandbar at the mouth of the harbor").

So I suppose that my conclusion must be that while my first lines aren't necessarily the most wow-inducing, suspense-generating, dramatic creations ever to be wrought in ink and pixels, then they do serve the stories that they introduce. Because, when it comes down to it, I am really not a wow-inducing, suspense-generating, dramatic writer. Most of my stuff is character- and mood-driven ... or aspires to be. It is my hope that my strengths with these aspects of storytelling will breathe life into my otherwise bland plotlines, where I will admit that I am not particularly strong.

Now I am proud of myself too for resisting the urge to attempt to categorize and statistically analyze my first lines ... and ask Teh Flist to help. o.O I am that much of a nerd, but my time for nerdsomeness really needs to be aimed in more productive directions today, and the goodwill of Teh Flist (who if they have made it this far have just survived a whole lot of writing-related introspective rambling) who put up with my oddities and obsessiveness with a commendable amount of good humor and cheer already.
  • I am only just beginning to think about the possibility that a first line can "hook" a reader. I was repeatedly beaten over the head with that concept a couple of years ago and it caused brain damage I think. I wasn't really writing or wanting to write "hooky" stories and I got all rebellious about the need to write interesting first lines! (Old-shoot-herself in the foot here!)

    I have since discovered, however, that I do like to be read (LOL), so I think there might be possible compromise in order for me. I like to think I write character-driven stories too, so I seek to find a way to put the reader strongly in the character's time, place, head at the very beginning of a story or chapter. I also like to read stories that are largely chronological with well-placed, but limited, flashbacks which reveal new insights into the character as one reads. Naturally, my first lines all seemed, when I looked them over, to start at the very beginning of the story I planned to tell.

    I was recently looking for a line of a poem and stumbled upon a 19th century first-line of a chapter that really cracked me up--some unbelievably tedious, archaic (even at the time) 60 words of detailed description of some autumn leaves! (Of course, I lost it and don't even remember the author (it was someone people know)--I'm devatated. I so wanted to copy it for you!) It was proof positive that certain types of opening paragraphs go in and out of style.

    I am jealous that you and Pandemonium did all your first lines (well almost all) because I really stuck to only one per month and would have liked to have seen them all together. But I have played long enough this weekend and really need to write, instead of writing about writing all day today.


    Edited at 2007-12-09 05:41 pm (UTC)
    • That's an interesting insight, on the evolution of first lines. Certainly, looking back at older literature, writers indulged in things then that would bring out the blue pencil without a doubt today: long and tedious descriptions or endless lists; I remember being told in high school that there was a book somewhere with a page-long sentence to describe the movement of an eyelid. Something ridiculous like that in a book that was well-regarded in its day (and probably still is, among bibliophiles with a penchant for the archaic!) Some of my more boring first lines--taken singularly--come from stories where I was trying for an archaic feel: the Green Knight novella (which is entirely archaic) and the NaNo07, which had passages from the Palaran history books quoted in it (and opened with one, hence the "boring" line about black ships arriving during a certain year). There is something nice--albeit quaint--about being eased into a story somewhat.

      I also had first lines knocked into me early in my writerly education. I remember being in sixth grade and learning something like the "six kinds of first lines to introduce a story." The only one I remember: a shocking statement! "It's a funny thing, dying." That sort of thing.

      And I don't think that there's a rule saying that you can't do a meme again long after it's no longer en vogue, say as a reward for finishing a long-in-progress novella ... ;)
  • I love the first-lines-of-stories version much better than the first-lines-of-entries. I think, scuffling through my hard drive, that I might be able to unearth a story (*ahem* unfinished ones...) for the majority of months...(Surprising, that!) Not until I've written my final paper for my seminar (on which I have not started, thanks to Int'l Biz project of Doom. Terrible Doom, not amusing crack! Doom) and studied for finance though...

    And I will resist the urge to analyze them. I will. Really. ;P
    • You should be almost finished now, eh? ;)

      I've never been fond of the first-lines-of-entries version, though it makes the round annually. It just doesn't seem to have a lot of meaning to me or serve much purpose. Lots of people like it--more power to them--but I couldn't get excited about it until it involved stories.
      • Finished! Yaaaay! *toasts*

        If anyone is especially curious about the first lines of my entries, they're more than welcome to use the calendar function. ;) I did the first-lines-of-stories version though - after managing to scrounge up a few more stories (at first I could find a grand total of one).
  • Hehehehe, you just gently reminded me (and I know you didn't intend to) to finish reading The Tapestries. I am sorry that I couldn't read along, same with the Green Knight story since they collided with big RL things.

    Opening lines are tricky. I remember when I still read fiction for Anti-Com, one of the comments I made most often to authors whose stories we weren't going to publish had to do with opening lines: Drop me into the story as soon as you can. And whatever you do, don't use the first paragraph to wax philosophical about the themes or what you hope I as the reader will "get" out of the story.

    Yes, this is true. But, don't give away too much as well. I remember reading a novel this year, a crime one, that within that same first opening paragraphs gave away the whole plot of the book. I sat it out, but the story didn't amount to a lot, very cliche and bland. A few weeks later, I chatted for a long time with a Belgian writer of suspense (during a gathering) who also reviews suspense and crime, so when I carefully started to explain why I didn't like this 'literary' novel (I had no idea how he reviewed or saw it). Anyway, he agreed and we had a long conversation about this, how to bring in the suspension, keep the reader on board.

    Every writer has her/his own way for that and I think everyone should find it out themselves. Some start with details of a surrounding, others with the protagonist immediately. There is no right or wrong with this, just as long if you keep everything in a compact manner together. For me it depends: sometimes I have the opening (like the current fic I am working on, just one bloody line, nothing more). Sometimes it escapes me and I know the ending and write from the end to the beginning. Speaking of endings, some writers advise to write 3 endings and choose from there. I found out that this doesn't work for me, I can however write several openings and sometimes I just blend them.

    It is my hope that my strengths with these aspects of storytelling will breathe life into my otherwise bland plotlines, where I will admit that I am not particularly strong.

    Dawn, I disagree with you here. Yes you say that you write character driven stories, but those stories also evolve around conflict, therefore a plot. I don't find your plots to be bland or mundane, I think within the characterisations there is so much rich detail to be found that would make your material richer than you think. It moves, touches people, so don't do this to yourself. Don't discredit your work like that, because an action packed plotdriven story can be just as bland and mundane without well thought out characters (think of that crime novel I mentioned above).

    Think of it as a soup (Fëanors LOL) where he adds spice after a spice to make it rich to taste. :c) Yes, AMC reference hehehe.

    Edited at 2007-12-09 06:18 pm (UTC)
    • Hehehehe, you just gently reminded me (and I know you didn't intend to) to finish reading The Tapestries. I am sorry that I couldn't read along, same with the Green Knight story since they collided with big RL things.

      Hey, they'll be there forever ... well, as long as LJ and the Internets are in existence. ;) They'll likely outlive even me. So you have plenty of time, if you're still interested.

      (And maybe I'll see the Green Knight published some day and will send you a printed copy? :^D)

      Yes, this is true. But, don't give away too much as well. I remember reading a novel this year, a crime one, that within that same first opening paragraphs gave away the whole plot of the book. I sat it out, but the story didn't amount to a lot, very cliche and bland.

      Oh, ick. I'd say that that's actually worse than waxing poetic for the first paragraph ... and half the story after! If anything, in the first paragraph (usually not the first line, per se), I like to create a little bit of mystery. I want the reader to ask, "What is going on here? Why is this happening like this?" and want to read on.

      Speaking of endings, some writers advise to write 3 endings and choose from there. I found out that this doesn't work for me

      I will definitely agree that I don't think that this would work for me either. I don't always know how my stories will end until they do (and other times, I have a clear ending in mind and craft the story intentionally in that direction), but the endings are how I make sense of the entire story. It usually feels to me that there can only be that one ending. I understand the alternate endings, in theory, but ... just no. :)

      Dawn, I disagree with you here. Yes you say that you write character driven stories, but those stories also evolve around conflict, therefore a plot. I don't find your plots to be bland or mundane, I think within the characterisations there is so much rich detail to be found that would make your material richer than you think. It moves, touches people, so don't do this to yourself. Don't discredit your work like that, because an action packed plotdriven story can be just as bland and mundane without well thought out characters (think of that crime novel I mentioned above).

      I didn't mean to sound like I was putting myself down, but I didn't convey myself clearly, I see, so I deserve to be chided a little. ;) I suppose that a better way to discuss my plotlines (versus characters or mood or imagery) is to say that while I think I'm safe in admitting that my characters and descriptions are above-average without sounding too prideful, then my plotlines--while not bad--aren't particularly notable either. Some people write stories with surprises and twists around every corner; I don't. My plots usually evolve (as you note as well) from the interactions of different characters. So they tend to be very "daily-life" versus "twists and turns," if that makes any sense. :)

      Take AMC: a whole novel that evolved from a year where nothing worth noting in history happened, where I had no idea where it was going until it got there, where chapters were often created by putting two characters in a room together to see what would happen. The plot isn't bad because it is true to life, yes, but it is also not what I think most readers like most about AMC. The plot only has meaning because of the characters; if I didn't write characters so well, AMC would be a terrible and boring story.

      Yes, AMC reference hehehe.

      Awwww ... :^D
  • This certainly made for an interesting read - and I think you are right that first lines (like first scenes in a movie) need to draw the reader or watcher right in, and the best thing to do that is to pose a question for the reader... you already mentioned that: It’s a funny thing, dying. and I agree completely. This is something that makes the reader wonder who the narrator is, what he knows about dying, how he gained that knowledge, why he has chosen that point of view. It hints at a greater backstory (or at a story that is going to be told), much like (part of) the appeal of LotR for many people are the glimpses of the distant past... Aragorn's song of Beren and Lúthien, Elrond's account of the Last Alliance (and further still, the mention of his childhood), or Gandalf's allusion to "the unimaginable hand and mind of Feanor at work". But I'm rambling.

    Of course, part of the reason that my fanfic beginnings tend to be bland is because the plots to my fanfic tend to be a little bland. They are largely character-driven. So those mundane moments really do say something[...]

    Wait - if that was how my review was understood, I'd like to correct my words here. The story wasn't bland. The beginning wasn't bland. The first line wasn't bland. From a writerly POV, Nerdanel's action of planting trees was significant to introduce her character, and a wonderful start to the story. From a innertextual perspective, the action of planting trees, in comparison to the apocalypse, appeared unimportant, true - but then, so would anything else. You did an admirable job here in making it much more.

    So. As far as I am concerned, first lines in a character-driven story can't ever be bland, unless they are in no relation to the story and the character itself. If they are in connection to the character, they automatically create suspense by posing a question about the character's motives, thoughts, biography, and so on, and from there they lead into the story. To use the movie comparison again, something feels off if Galadriel's voice is narrating about the journey of the Ring, and all we see are (albeit pretty) landscapes. There is no or only a marginal connection to the story. I never ever thought that was the case with your opening lines. Of course that impression is as subjective as any can be, but similarly to opening lines (to me) character-driven stories (well-done ones, I'd like to add) can't ever be bland either, and the plot can't be boring. Where there are characters, there is conflict of some sort of another, and conflict is plot.


    So I suppose that my conclusion must be that while my first lines aren't necessarily the most wow-inducing, suspense-generating, dramatic creations ever to be wrought in ink and pixels, then they do serve the stories that they introduce.


    They do that. And you know what? I think those wow-inducing things aren't necessarily desirable if they do nothing for the story.

    (And you're welcome.)

    Do you mind if I steal this version of the meme? I'm suddenly feeling the urge to analyze my first lines as well. >_>
    • I would like to apologize for not being clearer in my post ... I certainly didn't think that your review was insulting in any way! The bit about my plots being bland was my own opinion, and "bland" was probably too negative a word to make my point clearly.

      I wanted to convey what you have said so much better than I did here:

      As far as I am concerned, first lines in a character-driven story can't ever be bland, unless they are in no relation to the story and the character itself. If they are in connection to the character, they automatically create suspense by posing a question about the character's motives, thoughts, biography, and so on, and from there they lead into the story.


      I totally agree! :)

      I rambled to Rhapsody in the comment above yours as well about this, but the point I wanted to make in this post was that while I can safely say that my characters and descriptions are well above average (without, hopefully, sounding too full of myself ;), then my plots are rather average. They're not bad, but they're not particularly clever or unique either. Most of my plots develop from the characters, AMC being a 350,000-word example of this. ;) So the enjoyment of these plots and the meaning behind them, I think, is dependent on the characters. I think that AMC would be a terribly boring story if I hadn't written the characters as well as I did.

      In truth, I'd take a story with excellent characters where nothing much happens over a story full of thrills and chills but a little weak on the characterization. Some of my favorite authors write novels where I can't really tell you the plotline a year later, but I remember the people, and desire to spend more time with these people is what drives me to read the novel again and again.

      Likewise, wanting to spend time with my characters is what drives me to write too! :)

      And I think the action-movie genre highlights too well the dangers of flat characters and too much plot ... ;)

      Do you mind if I steal this version of the meme? I'm suddenly feeling the urge to analyze my first lines as well. >_>

      Please do! I stole it (and adapted it) myself from other LJers. And I've really enjoyed reading everyone's replies to this one. :)
      • I would like to apologize for not being clearer in my post ... I certainly didn't think that your review was insulting in any way!

        No, no, no, don't apologize! It was, in a way, perfectly clear - if a little too derogatory to sound completely wholesome. ;) If my review had struck you as insulting, I'm sure you wouldn't have featured it in your post. (I just worry too easily.)

        I can safely say that my characters and descriptions are well above average (without, hopefully, sounding too full of myself ;), then my plots are rather average.

        You can safely say the former; I'm having a few problems grasping the truth of the second part - didn't we just agree that in character-driven stories plot was a result of character action? Go figure. There may be the occasional story of "place character x in (premade) plot y and see what happens - perhaps those are among the average you mention - but then that might simply be because characters don't like being told what to do. Perhaps I'm wrong to place so much emphasis on their self-will (or whatever you'd like to term it), but then that's what writing experience has shown me. If you hadn't written the characters as well as you did, AMC wouldn't be the story it is, anyway.

        In truth, I'd take a story with excellent characters where nothing much happens over a story full of thrills and chills but a little weak on the characterization.
        Me too. Especially, since without the characters, the "thrills and chills" wouldn't work quite as well. Without a good, believable character as mediator, the author would never manage to engage his readers.

        As for stealing the meme - thanks. :) Now that I did the analysis, I'd rather not post it... I've found that most of my stories start out just the way I criticized in my first comment - with too little relation to the story itself, and usually fitting into "the x did/had/was y." - description. Now of course that isn't initially a bad thing, but it's not very exciting stylistically, and once it becomes too frequent it grows boring. I think it says something that I consider my best first line "In their first night she dreamt she held a candle." Depressing, really... but at least I know and can work on it.



        Edited at 2007-12-14 07:33 pm (UTC)
  • Attention-grabbing first lines? Hmmmh... interesting concept.

    Usually, I start with either a description in high-flowing fics, or a mundane action that would feel like I have surprised the characters in the middle of something, best used in fics that I do just for the fun. This also has the variant of the people-talking-first lines, and generally saves us from the boring descriptions and paragraphs of putting everyone in context. Sometimes, I´ve also used philosophy, though (yours about not minding details that will nag you later during big crises was magnificent, btw.)

    In the end, I think that there seem to be just a few patterns of first lines/paragraphs, (the mundane action, the person speaking, the piece of philosophy and the Shocking Phrase that you will develop later would be the four I have in my head right now) and that we all have done most of them at one moment or the other of our lives. Probably our brain has some sort of pregenerated patterns, and we build from there. But I am too tired to keep drawing conclusions at this hour of the night...

    ps: There´s also the narrative, historical one, which I think I´ve never used (your "The invasion came to Palaran in the 848th Turn as they mark their time, and it is said that the south seas that day turned black with the sails of the Morduthi ships.") Must search for the reasons of this strange brain reluctance, since I think it DOES work when I am reading it in someone else´s fics.
    • When I was in the sixth grade, I remember discussing first lines of fiction as part of Writers' Workshop (the best part of school, EVAH, imho ;) and learning that there are something like six general techniques. I'm not exactly sure that six was the magic number, but it was small, and I remember at least that the Shocking Phrase was on there.

      ps: There´s also the narrative, historical one, which I think I´ve never used (your "The invasion came to Palaran in the 848th Turn as they mark their time, and it is said that the south seas that day turned black with the sails of the Morduthi ships.") Must search for the reasons of this strange brain reluctance, since I think it DOES work when I am reading it in someone else´s fics.

      I find that I use this a lot when trying to write stories that sound either slightly archaic (the Green Knight) or are intended to convey history or legend. The Palaran example you gave is one of the latter: It comes from my 2007 NaNo, which opens from an excerpt from a history book from the fictional realm of Palaran. Two years ago, I wrote a legend for my husband for our shared fictional realm, the Midhavens:

      As it is told in the legends, when the Ancient Elves came from Tolendomna to the Midhavens, the idea alone of death—for the Ancient Elves had drunk of the Lake of Eternal Life and were immortal—grieved them, and they brought with them water from the Lake of Eternal Life, against the wills of the gods, hoping to bring immortality to the Midhavens.


      Ick, what a boring line, at face value! Yet it suits the style and purpose of the story, and so I think--taking the story as a whole--that it works just fine.

      Then there are other pieces where I cannot imagine using a line like this. For me, it seems to depend largely on the style and mood of the piece. Unfortunately, first lines, for me, just seem to happen, so I can't elucidate more on my thinking on that. :)
      • Unfortunately, first lines, for me, just seem to happen, so I can't elucidate more on my thinking on that. :)

        Well, that´s exactly the question. :)
  • Nagging a bit further at midnight

    I was still obsessing over the pattern of the mundane actions, when it occurred to me that this brain pattern of starting stories in the middle of an action, or in the middle of a conversation, so repeated in fics and books today, must belong to our culture of the film and the audiovisual. In past centuries, this would have been unthinkable, but today, when people read a book, they feel like they would do when watching a film: they want action. Descriptive of philosophical paragraphs are considered "tedious" parts that "drag" the story, while lines of dialogue and action verbs make it look like it´s moving. People like to have the sensation that things are moving since the first scene, so to speak.

    Hmmh... I wonder how can I be still typing with half a brain. Goodnight...
    • Re: Nagging a bit further at midnight

      heartofoshun also has some interesting points about the evolution of first lines, back at the start of the comment thread.

      That's really an interesting theory about movies and an audiovisual culture and one that I tend to agree with. In my post, though, when giving the example of the story I read for Anti-Com where the first three (of six!) paragraphs were devoted to philosophical mumblings and gorgeous, empty metaphors, the problem I had with the opening wasn't so much that it didn't move quickly enough--though it didn't move at all--but more that there was no context into which to place the philosophical mumblings and gorgeous metaphors. :) It was like the opening paragraph(s) occurred in an empty white room: I had no idea who was involved, what they were doing, where we were ... nothing. It was just words, and the words were pretty, but they were lacking in meaning because there was no story behind it.

      Somewhere (maybe also in Oshun's thread?) it was mentioned about slower starts to older stories, and I said that I do like to be eased into some stories. It's kind of nice ... but then, again, it depends on the piece, the style, the voice, the purpose ... a whole host of things. :)
  • Can we come up with a better one? ;)

    How about socio-viral propagator? Or culturally transmissable replicator? Surely these aren't too complex but still in the spirit of Professor Dawkins' original coinage. :^D

    Don't mind me. I can suffer others to use mmm...meee...meeeem...GAH!

    Whatever one wishes to name it, this is a cool exercise. We actually had a major discussion about something similar in the Super Secret Inner Sanctum of the Science Blogs internal forum. There, we talked about "the hook" that catches the reader and lures them into the article. PZ Meyers (proprietor of Pharyngula) is pretty good with concocting such good first liners and titles.

    I'll echo the others and note that your plots are not bland or weak in the least. One needn't whip out an action-packed, full-speed ahead story to craft a tale that is compelling. Mood- and character-driven fiction is a good thing. One of the best novels I have read recently is Cormac McCarthy's The Road. A father and son travel through the post-nuclear war-blasted wasteland of the southeast US. They encounter some hairy situations along the way, but by and large, it is all about mood and character.

    I can't say that I find this particularly annoying, although I might want to be aware of my opening lines a bit more and try some new things.

    I am all for Experimentation with a capital "E." By listing the lines, one can spot trends and play around a bit if desired.

    Finally, "I knew this was a bad idea" nearly resulted in my spitting wine all over my monitor this evening, mostly because it evoked the rest of "Concise Guide." Even when I first read the story, I was intrigued. Now what was the bad idea? I'd put that opener up with "It's a funny thing, dying." Nolofinwë's opening contemplation of the dew-bedecked spider web pulled me right in, too, but that may be due to my unhealthy obsession with orb weavers.

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