First Line Foreplay

I’ve spent days, even weeks thinking about first lines for new stories. I don’t just sit, staring at the inside of my eyelids as I come up with a beginning, I write down random scenes, make notes about the tale, characters, setting and so on; but I can’t start the true storytelling until I have a first line that feels solid enough… at the time.

I wasn’t particularly pleased with the start of “AlmaMia Cienfuegos.” When writing on the third person, I prefer beginnings that include the name of the protagonist before anyone else’s. This didn’t happen with AlmaMia’s short story, and to be honest, I’m not quite sure why I made that choice.

But that no longer matters. What’s done is done, right? Now that I’m rewriting the short story, fleshing it out to make it part of AlmaMia’s true first novel, I know exactly what the first line is:
“AlmaMia was seven when she shaved her fourteen-year-old sister’s left eyebrow, while the older sibling slept.”

I love this line. I find it to be simple, fun, a bit wicked, and representative of both characters. In less than twenty words, we learn that AlmaMia is an inventive little girl who knows how to get her hands into sharp things, and we can imply that the older sister might not be very happy about losing an eyebrow. Also, the sentence would leave most readers (I can only hope) wondering… What provoked the unsolicited grooming? Will the older sister do anything about it?

Once I plant the first line, scenes begin to sprout, chapters start to branch out… and soon, a story is born.

What’s your artistic process like?

16 comments:

  1. The first line is essential, it's like, you can't say well, I will the nest few line sand the first will wait for it's birth... not possible!
    I used to write some kind of small stories. First I was thinking of what I'm actually going to tell, a rough idea of the plot. I found it's a little difficult to find..names for the characters. These have to be names you like, names which correspond your emotions. Especially, if your write in English, which is not your native, you have to think of international names, unless the story will be reflecting some events of your native country.
    I haven't written anything good so far, and my blog is a tiny bit of self expression for me. However, I'd really like to write short stories inspired by my childhood, my youth. May be will write about my intercultural, interfaith marriage :) Just need to choose names...
    Wishing you to develop an awesome novel!!!

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    1. Well, if you write one of those tales, I would love to read them. I think you and your hubby come from very rich cultures, and to see how the Russian/Indian love translate into the stories will be a treat ;-)

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  2. Usually I have got a scene in my head and want to know how it came to happen. And what will happen later. Or I have got a weird person talking to me and need to know what happened to them to make them this way. It sounds cryptic, but that is exactly what happens. I am incredibly curious, and always want to know the full story. ^^

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    1. My writing is very character driven. So like you, even before I know that I will be writing a story there will be a character in my head making herself/himself known... in very loud ways ;-)

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  3. It's a great first line, and your story really takes of with it. I need a story I'm reading to take off immediately. Some writers have a great first paragraph and then just plummet into boredom. I prefer stories that hit the ground running.

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    1. I'm right with you. I don't mind if the story slows down in the middle, as they usually do. But by the time we are discussing motivations and offering bits of exposition, I want to care enough about the characters to continue reading.

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  4. When I write I have "a line" that radiates the rest. It may be the beginning/end or middle of the piece, but some sentence in my head will be nagging at me to give it life. So yes...I am weird. Once I have that line, I then do the "beginning/middle/end thing we were taught in English lessons at school lol :D XXX (though i do allow the muse free reign once a story starts to develope)

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    1. I, too, allowed my muse free reign once the story gets going. I do have to remind her that we are working together, every now and then, or she loses her mind... but must of the time, we go wild together and have a blast getting bloody and kicking butt... and being nice, too, of course *cough, cough*

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  5. I love the first line. It hooked me I wanted to know what was going on between the two girls.

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    1. My wicked plan roots and spreads! Muahahahahaha ;-)

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  6. Ok, I laughed. AWESOME first line. Aside from the reasons you gave for it being a good opening line, it also presents a fantastic mental picture that is very entertaining. :D

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    1. I laugh as I imagine the sister's face, too. And she's fourteen... oh the teenage outrage ;-)

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  7. That first line sums it up well. It tells so much and on every emotional level and the personality of the character shines through... In school we were taught that the first sentence was the most important.. It was the opener that would lead the reader down that road.. and the subsequent sentences were just the enhancer.

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    1. This is really embarrassing, but I just sat here trying to remember what they said in school about first lines and, um... I can't remember lol. I'm hopeless ;-)

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  8. Brush in hand and something takes over me! I just go for it and the creativity, flows out of me ;o)

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    1. I can definitely see you going wild with your brush and bringing colorful soul-full crows to life ;-)

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