Monday, April 17, 2006

Creative Writing 101

They say the opening sentence is the most important one you can write, and it's my usual test of whether I want to read a book or not. So here's an assortment from the current To Read pile; if I meditate on them as I type them out, I might be able to whittle it down a bit.

* Stephen Fry (yes, that Stephen Fry), The Ode Less Travelled: Unlocking the Poet Within:
'I have a dark and dreadful secret.'

* Peter Rose, A Case of Knives:
'Eureka!'

* Ian McEwen, Saturday:
'Some hours before dawn Henry Perowne, a neurosurgeon, wakes to find himself already in motion, pushing back the covers from a sitting position, and then rising to his feet.'

* Linda Fairstein, Death Dance:
'"You think we've got a case?" Mercer Waller asked me.'

* Eric Hobsbawm, On History
'The least philosophically minded historians can hardly avoid general reflections about their subject.'

* Andrew Taylor, The Suffocating Night:
'Timing is all, Cameron Rowse used to say.'

* Helen MacDonald, Human Remains: Episodes in human dissection
'Here we sit, in the boiler room of an abandoned brewery in London's East End.'

And the winner is John Banville, for the first sentence of The Sea:

'They departed, the gods, on the day of the strange tide.'

11 comments:

R H said...

RH's Opening Address to his Minority Shareholders:

"Hello darlings."

ThirdCat said...

I know children's books are a different thing, but 'The night Max wore his wolf suit and mischief of one kind...' has always, always, always made me turn the page.

I think I would have made the choice you made too. Although I very much like the line from Saturday too. Also, Stephen Fry's. Of course.

Kate said...

Now I have to go and get yet another book to add to the pile.

Pavlov's Cat said...

Which one, Kate?

TC, I've been trying to think of a kids' book whose first sentence I can remember, but no luck so far. The opening sentence that haunts me most is from Jane Eyre: 'There was no possibility of taking a walk that day.'

Lucy Tartan said...

I thought of Jane Eyre when, in that writing contest thing at LP recently, somebody said you should never, ever, ever write about the weather in the first sentence of a novel. (Neuromancer, too.)

The dissection book sounds interesting.

Kate said...

"The Sea". Sorry, should have been more clear. I'm having trouble with clarity at the moment. Perhaps I need a mental aspirin?

whitebait said...

I love these kinds of posts PC. Erm, that's about it really.

Pavlov's Cat said...

Lucy, yes, so did I. Disregard it utterly, I say. They may have been thinking of 'It was a dark and stormy night', but think how much even that would knock out of Coleridge and Keats ... oh, this is a whole new post, so there you go, Whitebait, 'nother one coming up -- glad you like these games -- it's gratifying to know I'm not just doing it for my own amusement (although I happily would).

Ron said...

Divorce is a real possibility if I keep visiting blogs like yours that mention so many wonderful books. Pillow talk this morning centered on the need to economise and this is before the $400 spent so far this month shows up on the family credit card. Anyone have room for a weekend guest after my better half does the accounts tomorrow morning?

It's so easy to open a second window, log into Dymocks or wherever and buy another book. My browser even remembers my address and credit card details. It's just SO easy.

Yes, I do use the library. Isn't the online catalogue and reservation system a wonderful thing? As a result of this post, I've already opened another window and reserved two books.

PS If someone does offer me accomodation will there be room for a trailer-load of books?

elsewhere said...

(returning to the blogosphere somewhat belatedly here). I rather liked this opening line from The Poisonwood Bible:

'Imagine a ruin so strange it must never have happened.'

Susoz said...

The first chapter of Saturday is a tour de force, beginning (of coourse) with that line.