Whether you’re writing a short story or a novel, the first line is pretty important.
On that recent BBC Radio 4 programme, ‘Suspended Sentence’ (which is still available to listen to here, if you’re quick), someone says that the first line of a novel should be the equivalent of a ‘come hither’ look. (ooh err). Ideally, it should entice, tease, tantalise and make you want more…
I gave the class some first lines from novels that they probably wouldn’t recognise (ie: not ‘It is a truth universally acknowledged…’) and asked them to ‘write on’ for a line or two. And then we read the ‘real’ ones to see how they compared. Although I say so myself, it was fun.
And if you want to have a go, how about this one (which isn’t one of those that I gave the class):
‘I sat in the back pew and watched the only woman I would ever love marry another man’.*
(I’ll ‘reveal all’ at the bottom of the post).
Bridport Prize – closing date 31st May
There are just 10 days to get your entry/entries in to the Bridport Prize! Eeek – as usual, I have left it all too late but I have an existing story that I might be able to polish up a bit.
You can listen to the winning short story, flash fiction and poem from last year here. And if you only have time for one, listen to Claudia Daventy’s beautiful poem about love – ‘Alakazam’ – which conjures up (ha!) so many pictures, uses so many senses, is deceptive in its simplicity and is just…well, enviably good. (*sighs*)
And In Other News
I’ve got an interview for a part-time job (yes, another part-time job, on top of the class and my ‘tutoring’ for the Writers Bureau. If I get enough of these little jobs together, it might all add up to a half-decent income..)
PLUS, I’ve made the shortlist of a ‘chick lit’ short story competition! It’s the ‘Sunlounger’ competition. Stories had to be set in ‘a sunny destination outside the UK’ and the winner ‘will have their story published in the SUNLOUNGER (e-book) anthology alongside 30+ of the hottest names in women’s fiction as well as receive a consultation with esteemed literary agent Madeleine Milburn and take home a pink carry-on case filled with 21 travel goodies (including a Pan Am flight bag and a luxury cashmere Travelwrap!)’
Ooh ooh, exciting!
The winner will be announced on 1st June (when, funnily enough, I will be overseas myself – in Milan, hopefully in the sunshine).
Anyway, they’ve published the first few lines of each of the shortlisted stories – scroll down the page a bit. As they’re in alphabetical order, needless to say, mine is last – and they’ve spelled my name wrong but hey, I’m used to that!
There are some great first lines there. A stolen super-yacht! ‘You may have missed your wedding but you’re not going to miss your honeymoon..’ .. yes, impressive.
I’m afraid my first few lines are pretty un-hooky (yes, I’ve just made up that word) BUT the story hots up, honest and it has a rather nifty little structure which they haven’t revealed in the paragraph they’ve printed. Anyway, it’s great to be in the 10 shortlisted, even if my story doesn’t get any further. It’s a story I wrote a while ago (probably, ahem, when I was still young enough to be a ‘chick lit’ writer!!) and I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for it.
I will keep you posted….
* The opening line is from Harlan Coben’s new novel ‘Six Years’. You can read the opening few pages here.