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It is my wish that I one day make it to the end of writing of a story and see it published.

Countless (and I mean countless) times have I started writing stories, gotten so completely involved with them that it takes over my life – to one day only go and decide it’s not good enough so there’s no point carrying on with it. So I don’t.

I have tried all the suggested writing techniques and different ways of planning out a story so I know where I’m headed with it – to all end the same way; a half written notebook or an unfinished Word file.

I then don’t write anything for a while. Fiction wise, that is. I write for a living so I obviously have to write something after these sobering times!

Which is exactly what it is for me, a sobering experience. One in which I think I’m never going to make it as an author – especially if I don’t have a new idea to run with.

Inspiration for new stories comes rarely and it’s definitely when I’m not looking for it that it turns up.

And this is the stage that I am at now, I’ve just had another ‘great’ idea (born randomly whilst I was ill in bed), one that I know will begin to consume me pretty soon. And whilst I’m in this honeymoon phase, I can tell you, there’s no place I’d rather be.

I have such fun when I’m in my fiction flow, but only once I’ve got past the first few hurdles.

What hurdles? I hear you ask. Surely you just sit down and write.

Oh no. I do have to roughly plan my stories before pen is put to paper (or finger touches keyboard) otherwise, goodness only knows where my characters would end up. Once my plan is down, and I know what points I need to direct my characters to, everything then rests on the next phase and the next dilemma; What’s my opening line?

A reader needs to be hooked from the first line.

Sometimes I think of a line that then spurs the idea for a story, so I already have the first line down and raring to go; but most of the time, like now, coming up with the opener is what drives the next line, then the next and the next, and so on and so forth. Meaning that before I get into my fiction flow fun land, I have to get this first line right.

After a fair few attempts at my opener, a feeling of ‘everything is riding on this first line, so make it good’, and an added feeling of ‘nothing’s working’, I decided to step away from the laptop, go to my book shelf and read the openers for some of my favourite books. After all, I’d have been hooked from the first line, surely?

  • ‘In the land of Ingary, where such things as seven-league boots and cloaks of invisibility really exist, it is quite a misfortune to be born the eldest of three.’ Howl’s Moving Castle – Diana Wynne Jones
  • ‘The first thing you should know about Robbie is she’s dead.’ Innocence – Kathleen Tessaro
  • ‘The shabby man in the fourth row of the pit leant forward and stared incredulously at the stage.’ The Actress – Agatha Christie
  • ‘My mother is, like, a totally confirmed A-list bloody cocking minging arsehole cretin cockhead of the highest order.’ A Tiny Bit Marvellous – Dawn French
  • ‘It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.’ Nineteen Eighty-Four – George Orwell
  • ‘Paddington Station feels like it should be shut.’ PopCo – Scarlett Thomas
  • ‘The buzz in the street was like the humming of flies.’ The Cuckoo’s Calling – Robert Galbraith
  • ‘And…coming up next…Sophie Leigh’s diet secrets!’ Not Without You – Harriet Evans
  • ‘NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS – I WILL NOT – Drink more than fourteen alcohol units a week.’ Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding

OK, so maybe you need to read more than the first line to really get into a book. But you must agree from reading those few openers, that they set the initial scene and give you a taste of what you should expect from the rest of the story – in so few words.

So this is what I have to aim for with my own opener. Something that will set the scene whilst giving an insight into the tone of the story. Clearing my mind of all negativities, I sat back down to write. And here it is…

‘I’ve never heard the city so quiet before.’

Intrigued? Well, perhaps you need to read the next bit too. But you’ll just have to wait.

I’m back in my fiction flow, determined and enjoying my writing again. I just hope I don’t give up on this one.

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One thought on “The first line of a story

  1. Pingback: A problem shared, “The first line of a story” | The Quiet Fantasy Book Blog

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