Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Opening Lines

"I don't know what to do about my husband's new wife."

Is that a great opening line or what? When I read it, a story flew into my head entirely different than the one that Molly Giles wrote in her story "Pie Dance." She is a terrific writer and did a great job with this surprising story though. Mine may not be nearly as good as hers, but it will be quite different.

So I'm going to write that story. I don't think stealing a first line is verboten.

So here's an idea if not a real challenge because it's been too soon. (Although I am afraid I will forget this idea if I wait). Pick a great opening line to someone's novel or story and write a completely different story. You don't even have to read the original work. Just steal the first line.

In the meantime, what are some of the great opening lines? Maybe I can get more ideas for stories from you.


Randy Johnson said...

Here's one by Alan Dean Foster for one of his short stories:

"Here's the story of two people and how three of them died."

Not a mix-up.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Wow. That is provocative. I will look for it.

Dana King said...

My favorite from the moment first read it:

The night of my mother's funeral, Linda Dawson cried on my shoulder, put her tongue in my mouth, and asked me to find her husband.


pattinase (abbott) said...

A line like that carries you a long way.

Deb said...

I've always liked the first line of Ruth Rendell's A JUDGEMENT IN STONE: "Eunice Parchman killed the Coverdale family because she could not read or write." It lets you know there's going to be murders and who committed them and, in a way, why; but it still leaves you curious and wanting to know more.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Love that line. So straight forward and stating the motive without pause.

Anonymous said...

One of my favorite first lines is from Michael Perry's POPULATION: 485. "Summer here comes on like a zaftig hippie chick, jazzed on chlorophyll and flinging fistfuls of butterflies to the sun."

pattinase (abbott) said...

Cool. My mind can really make a picture of that one.

Prashant C. Trikannad said...

"Detective Arthur Brown did not like being called black. This might have had something to do with his name, which was Brown. Or his colour, which was also brown..." from Ed McBain's 87th Precinct mystery JIGSAW. May not be great opening lines but I remember it because I read the novel recently.

Prashant C. Trikannad said...

Patti, here's another I liked. "I am sorry to tell you, Mr. Jones, that the body of the woman murdered last night has been identified as that of your wife." From the short story "All Sorts of Identifications" from THE CRIME OF THE FRENCH CAFÉ AND OTHER STORIES by Nicholas Carter which I downloaded from an ebooks site.

Margot Kinberg said...

Patti - My all time favourite first line comes from Ruth Rendell's A Judgement in Stone:

Eunice Parchman killed the Coverdale family because she could not read or write.

Mike Dennis said...

"I wasn't always an asshole."

"Across the bar, a lean blond with a missing front tooth is massaging my tits with his eyes, and I get an idea."
VOLUNTARY MADNESS by Vicki Hendricks

"It began with a shattered dream."
OF TENDER SIN by David Goodis

Anonymous said...

I'm going to cheat. This is more than one sentence, but it's the opening and it's great.

"There was a desert wind blowing that night. It was one of those hot dry Santa Anas that come down through the mountain passes and curl your hair and make your nerves jump and your skin itch. On nights like that every booze party ends in a fight. Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husbands' necks. Anything can happen."

"Red Wind" by Raymond Chandler

pattinase (abbott) said...

Sadly I haven't read that one. I will because I know people say it's amazing.

Gerard said...

I liked the one I read yesterday from Jude Hardin's DEAD MAN story, Pete McCray was in Nitko's security office dumping sugar into a cup of coffee when Kevin Radowski marched in and shot him five times in the chest.

Anonymous said...

Another favorite first sentence is from the first Ken Bruen book I ever read, CALIBRE. "Shit from shinola." The character goes on to say "You have to hand it to the goddamn Yanks,they have great verbals, man. I love the way they cuss."

John said...

"As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect."

"It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen."

"Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendia was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice."

None of these are crime novels, but I hope everyone knows them without attribution.