Tag Archives: Mark Twain

The Opening Line: How Do You Make It Memorable?

OO is for Opening Line

The Opening Line—probably the most important sentence you will write. Unlike the writers of the past, the modern writer in this fast-paced world needs to grab the reader’s attention as quickly as possible or risk losing the reader altogether.

What makes a good opening line?

Hmm…

In all the books I’ve read on the craft of writing, I don’t recall reading about the formula to writing a memorable opening line. If you know it, please do tell.

After analyzing some of my favorite opening lines, there doesn’t seem to be a  common thread that runs through each of them. They are all different. Some are long (A Tale of Two Cities) and some are surprisingly short (A Christmas Carol). What is it about these opening lines that make them so memorable?

My favorite opening lines contained at least one of the following:

• Imagery
• Contrast
• Intrigue
• Unique voice
• Compelling Mental Picture
• Sarcasm
• Shock
• Fear
• Dialogue

Imagery

“It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.” Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell

Contrast

“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, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.” A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

Intrigue

“Midway upon the journey of our life, I found myself within a forest dark, for the straightforward pathway had been lost.” The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri

Unique Voice

“You don’t know about me without you have read a book by the name of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer; but that ain’t no matter.” The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain

Compelling Mental Picture

“On Friday noon, July the twentieth, 1714, the finest bridge in all Peru broke and precipitated five travelers into the gulf below.” The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder

Shock

“Marley was dead, to begin with.” A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

“My name was Salmon, like the fish; first name, Susie. I was fourteen when I was murdered on December 6, 1973.” The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

Sarcasm

“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 by Jane Austen

Fear

“Once upon a midnight dreary, as I pondered weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of someone gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.” The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe

Dialogue

And this one comes from our very own Sarah M. Cradit:

“‘All I’m saying is, Deliverance was based on a true story.’” The Storm and the Darkness by Sarah M. Cradit

 

What do you think makes a good opening line? What is your favorite opening line?

Here is a link to more famous opening lines from Wikiquote.

To see what other A to Z participants are blogging about this month, please click here to link to their blogs.

 

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Who Says You’re Too Old to Pursue Your Dreams?

When it comes to pursuing our dreams, many of us are plagued with doubts. What if I’m not good enough? What if they don’t like me? Do I really have what it takes to succeed? As someone who has discovered her passion later in life (I’m in my 40’s), I have another question pop in my head occasionally.

Am I too old to even try?

I know from the time I’ve spent reading other blogs and conversing with fellow bloggers that I’m not the only one who has this fear. Has opportunity passed us by? Well, I got tired of hearing that worn out excuse replay in my head and did some research to finally put it to rest. It turns out many of history’s greatest achievements were made by those who were middle-aged or older. Here are a few examples: Continue reading Who Says You’re Too Old to Pursue Your Dreams?

Use Adverbs in Moderation

What did I do when I thought my novel wasn’t long enough (refer to my post on Word Count)? I went shopping. No, I don’t mean the mall. I went to Lolly’s Adverb Shop and I filled my cart. Still don’t know what I’m referring to? Watch this.

Didn’t make it through the whole thing, huh? Yeah, me neither. Sorry about that. I hope you don’t have that tune stuck in your head all day.

So I tacked on the adverbs (did I just admit that?), especially in the first three chapters. {CRINGE} Oh the horror!

Despite what we learned from watching School House Rock as kids, adverbs aren’t exactly a writer’s friend. Some well-known authors aren’t fans either.

“The road to hell is paved with adverbs.” ~ Stephen King, On Writing

“Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very;’ your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.” ~Mark Twain

I’m not saying you should avoid adverbs altogether. A few sprinkled in your writing make it more interesting but use them sparingly. Overutilization can bore the reader. If the removal of an adverb weakens the intended meaning of the sentence then consider using a better verb.

So, what is an adverb? The short definition: a word that modifies a verb, adjective, other adverb or phrase and typically (yep, that’s an adverb) ends in –ly. But there’s more to it than that so look up the formal definition and check this out:

http://www.momswhothink.com/reading/list-of-adverbs.html

In addition to increasing the adverb count, I went on incessantly (LOL) about the setting and the characters and blah, blah, blah. I did the one thing that I don’t like to read in other novels. Anyone read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo? Great book, right? How many of you wanted to toss it after the first twenty pages or so? I wanted to torch it. I had just left the world of finance. The last thing I wanted to do was read about it. I suffered through it because I heard it was worth it but I came close to giving up.

If you are an aspiring author like me, do yourself a favor: chill on the adverbs and the lengthy descriptions. It slows down the action. It can cause the reader to lose interest and if the reader is an agent, well…that really, totally, truly, seriously (okay, I’ll stop) sucks.

Need ideas on how or when to eliminate adverbs?  Visit http://grammar.quickanddirtytips.com/eliminate-adverbs.aspx