Apr 29, 2010

QWC + First Sentences

Posted by AJ Blythe at Thursday, April 29, 2010
I was lucky enough earlier this year to win a 'taster pack' with the Queensland Writers Centre (QWC) from Fleur McDonald (author of Blue Skies).

As part of the taster pack I also got an online short course with the Australian Writers Marketplace. I'm coming to the close of the two week course. It's been a lot of fun. I don't think I've learnt anything new about my craft - but it has certainly made me revisit some aspects and consider others. A great tool to refocus my writing and remind my why it means so much to me.

One task had us considering first sentence of our favourite books. Why did we like them? I've never thought about my reasons before. It was a great task to sit down and really think about why I liked these first lines.

I analysed 4 books I love by 4 internationally successful authors (Dick Francis, Stephenie Meyer, David and Leigh Eddings, JK Rowling). I was surprised to find my reasons were the same for all four - very different - opening lines:

Thursday, March 17th, I spent the morning in anxiety, the afternoon in ecstasy, and the evening unconscious. "Risk" by Dick Francis

In defense of Althalus, it should be noted that he was in very tight financial circumstances and more than a little tipsy when he agreed to undertake the theft of the Book. "The Redemption of Althalus" by David and Leigh Eddings

Mr and Mrs Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much. "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone" by JK Rowling

I'd never given much thought to how I would die - though I'd had reason enough in the last few months - but even if I had, I would not have imagined it like this. "Twighlight" by Stephenie Meyer

What I liked about them:

• they all introduce something about the characters - and in all but the Harry Potter example, the main characters

• they all make me ponder a question - What could cause such a range of emotions in one day? What is the Book and why would Althalus not agree to steal it unless he was tipsy? Why would you need to be able to say you were normal, let alone be proud of it? How was she dying if it wasn't something you could imagine?

• by making me ponder a question I have to read on to find my answer (they immediately captured me)

• they are all 'different', original openings

• they are all simple - simple language and simple ideas

I'm not sure why I've never considered examining great beginnings before. Now that I have, I know I will be more likely to incorporate these elements into my own first sentences.


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