Friday, August 18, 2006

Old Beginnings 3


I didn't care to invest time in searching out or typing 150-word beginnings tonight, but then I thought, if you can't hook the reader in your first 30 words, you've lost him. Do these do the trick?

The sources are posted at the bottom of the page.

1. Something a little strange, that's what you notice, that she's not a woman like all the others.

2. A man with binoculars. That is how it began: with a man standing by the side of the road, on a crest overlooking a small Arizona town, on a winter night.

3. I was sick, sick unto death, with that long agony, and when they at length unbound me, and I was permitted to sit, I felt that my senses were leaving me.

4. Until he saw the three children in white, George Paxton's life had gone just about perfectly.

5. It always surprised Emma that whenever she actually saw Toni she lost her intense urge to kill her.



Old Beginnings 3

1. Kiss of the Spider Woman....Manuel Puig
2. The Andromeda Strain....Michael Crichton
3. "The Pit and the Pendulum"....Edgar Allen Poe
4. This is the Way the World Ends....James Morrow
5. "The Einstein-Jung Connection"....Daniel Pearlman

24 comments:

acd said...

*calculates* At this rate, Old Beginnings 4 will consist of the first six words, by Old Beginnings 5 we'll only get the first word and a fraction of the second, and the authors of Old Beginnings 6 will have to hook us by the first letter. I'm partial to "T" myself, but I hear that "A" and "I" are usually winners.

MaryKaye said...

Thirty words is fairly unlikely to do it for me, no matter what thirty words they are. I'm not really a fan of "grab the reader in the first sentence."

I have trouble deciding if I'm interested in these or not. Anything I bothered to pick up in the bookstore, I'd read at least a page (not the first page--generally a random one about 1/3 of the way through).

HawkOwl said...

Yeah, nnnnno. Sorry. Here's a good one, though:

"Ruth remembered drowning."

Anonymous said...

Left Coast Editor Says:

if you can't hook the reader in your first 30 words, you've lost him.

Writers: Welcome to the real world.

Some writing teachers have compiled a list of "great first sentences."

Ouch. It's brutal out there, and in each agent's, writing teacher's and editor's office are a veritable Matterhorn of manuscripts. Fearless mountaineers of paper piles that we are, we often do read only the first sentence, or paragraph and go no further.

Anonymous said...

Left Coast Editor awaiting friend to arrive from airport on the shuttle at 5 a.m. says:

1. Something a little strange, that's what you notice, that she's not a woman like all the others.
MAYBE

2. A man with binoculars. That is how it began: with a man standing by the side of the road, on a crest overlooking a small Arizona town, on a winter night.
OH YEAH, THAT'S HOW IT BEGAN. NOT BAD, BUT SHADES OF SNOOPY'S "IT WAS A DARK AND STORMY NIGHT."

3. I was sick, sick unto death, with that long agony, and when they at length unbound me, and I was permitted to sit, I felt that my senses were leaving me.
COMMAS WILL LEAVE YOU WINDED. BREATHE INTO A PAPER BAG

4. Until he saw the three children in white, George Paxton's life had gone just about perfectly.
NICE --leaves room for immediae change

5. It always surprised Emma that whenever she actually saw Toni she lost her intense urge to kill her.
GOOD THING EMMA IS TAKING PAXIL. NO

BuffySquirrel said...

The first note of this song is D. Wanna hear the rest?

BuffySquirrel said...

(oh, btw, Jane Austen's commas are painfully dire, but her books are still in print after nearly two hundred years, and they're on the front tables in Waterstones...)

BuffySquirrel said...

(her spelling's not much good, either)

braun said...

buffy: What, didn't she know how to use a spellchecker?

Teresa said...

What I feel when I read each of these opening sentences is a sense of the writer's confidence and competence. He or she isn't trying to "be a good writer" - you get the feeling immediately that there is a strong, individual voice and a story to be told.

magz said...

Hmmm, why does it appear to me that so many consider reading a challenge, or assignment?
Perhaps I'm in a minority here, but I read for fun. Anything! Everything! I dont believe I've ever put a book down unread, tho at times I've cussed and shook it and talked back to the author, much as I imagine some do to TV characters.
If a book truely sucks, it goes to the very bottom of my slush pile against the day when there's nothing else to read, but that day always comes.
Anyone else remember an episode of the original Twilight Zone starring Burgess Meridith as a meek little man at the end of the world, thrilled with access to libraries right up untill he tripped and broke his glasses?
That's me, and I'd have just held the books a half inch from my nose and read them anyways.

I realize that there's a huge difference between writing for sales or prestigue and writing for readers, yet I'm a bit alarmed at how often here it's demonstrated that folks want instant hooks, and instant gratification.
In my mind, that's what TV or movies are for: reading is more like the 2nd best solitary entertainment ever known, with or without clothes hehe. Respectfully, Maggie

Brenda Bradshaw said...

Well... great. The one I liked the most (#5) is apparently the one the left-coast editor liked the least.

Figures.

Maybe it's because I can relate to that sentence a little too well.

whitemouse said...

I loved that last one too, Brenda. Maybe it's a "girl" thing? I completely understand that mindset.

Evil minion #667 said...

I think 1, 2, and 5 are AbFab.

I live on the Left Coast, too. And I'm an editor... but only of two authors.
(Me, and my wife)

McKoala said...

I'm all for a great first sentence.

1. So she's a man? I'd have to read the second sentence to find out, so yes, I'm reading on. But if it's just because she's a flighty wild thing that no man can hold in his hand then I'm putting that book right down, because she just needs to get a grip and live in the real world like the rest of us... sorry, am I going on a bit?

2. I'd read on, but I suspect that the event being forecast will not live up to this nice beginning.

3. No thanks. Get out the smelling salts and pull yourself together....

4. Love it.

5. Love it.

Off to see what the books these are from...

McKoala said...

Wanted to add that I don't like the italics on 'saw' in #5 and I don't think that they are necessary.

Now I'm off...

Anonymous said...

(I)f you can't hook the reader in your first 30 words, you've lost him.

I don't like the idea of my special precious snowflake of a novel being judged this way, but y'know - I was at the library today and I put three books back on the shelf because their first few sentences didn't give me any faith that the story would be to my liking.

Welcome to the real world, indeed.

Word veri: Medezoe. The official name for Zoe, the plastic CPR practice dummy.

Virginia Miss said...

1. Sparks my interest
2. I might keep reading, mild interest
3. Not terribly appealing
4. Sparks my interest
5. This I really liked, promises a sense of humor

Virginia Miss said...

E.E.: to save you finding and typing 150-word "old beginnings," would you like your minions to Email you some?

xiqay said...

Love them all.

MaryKaye said...

I think people are choosy because the selection available is so very large! I live close to a glorious large independent bookstore, and they have a 3'x10' table holding just this month's new SF and Fantasy. There is also some excellent YA SF/Fantasy coming out constantly, and I occasionally find a mystery or literary novel I like as well (my sister gave me Ella Minnow Pea as a gift and I love it.

I have to pick out one or two books from all this each month; I have neither money nor time to try them all. (The library can help with money but not with the time.) So I try hard to find something I'm going to love, not merely tolerate or like.

It's not that I find reading a chore. But a good book is so much more rewarding than an okay one!

BuffySquirrel said...

You know what, braun? she even uses "from whence" and I forgave THAT.

Anonymous said...

I am sooooo disappointed with myself. Poe is one of my all time favorites. I guess it is time to go back and read my Poe anthology. -JTC

Christine said...

None of them grip me.