All writers have a process that allows them to create. However, the art of "Writing" is often mistaken for that "Process." Hopefully this blog explains the difference, and inspires people to develop their crafts, become writers, or just keep on writing.
Friday, April 24, 2020
That Important First Line
In a book, the first line should have nothing to do with that.
Writing, however, is a bit different. Or should I say, writing a story is different than the storytelling part in some ways, and those differences are crucial. Going back to our Star Wars opening, let's pull in the mood of that moment, and invest some time with another sense - sound. We start with the prologue scrolling by to a big John Williams orchestral composition - a huge build-up there. What happens? The prologue fades and the music shifts to one little flute (I think it's a flute) playing over a scene of the vastness of space. That's a huge mood shift, and the viewer feels it.
Of course, Princess Leia's little craft enters the scene without much fanfare, followed by the Star Destroyer that is just sound and fury everywhere. Never mind the visual, the deep bass vibrations told you this monstrous, hulking ship was bad news. It overwhelmed the music from Leia's craft, and established everything you could imagine about what was awaiting the poor little ship as it got captured.
And all that without a word spoken.
Opening lines have to carry this kind of effect. The great opening lines don't just communicate the scene, they establish the mood. That first line often does not describe an opening scene, but sets the emotional stage for the story to come. A great opening line might not even have anything to to with fleshing out the visuals at all. It just needs to grab the reader's interest and invest them enough to move things forward. If it plants a question in their mind, then all the better.
(For more opening line suggestions, I also recommend an earlier post, "The First Words are the Hardest.")
I don't own any of the books that came out based on the Star Wars movies. I would be curious to see the opening lines, and see if they come close to the drama of that one scene. Somehow, I doubt it. My opening line would be something like, "Princess Leia had no way to escape this time; but she had a plan that the entire rebel cause depended on." No talk about the ships or space, but a quick jump that describes everything we need to know about the setting.
Want a fun writing prompt? Write the narrative opening lines for your favorite movies, and see what comes up.