Friday, March 19, 2010

First Line Challenge

Are you ready to get your creative juices flowing?

I'll give you the first sentence or passage of a famous novel, and your job is to turn it into a paragraph that is totally unique, and totally you!

Authors and characters are all welcome to attempt this little exercise. Let's see how many different perspectives we can create. As a bonus, try to guess the book that's being quoted.

(Incidentally, the last opener was from Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson – probably not a big surprise since the sentence contained the words “Treasure Island” – haha.)

Okay, are you ready? Here we go!

The day broke gray and dull. The clouds hung heavily, and there was a rawness in the air that suggested snow. A woman servant came into a room in which a child was sleeping and drew the curtains. She glanced mechanically at the house opposite, a stucco house with a portico, and went to the child's bed...


Ginger said...

"Wake up, Master Rupert."

"Go away!" said Rupert without opening his eyes. He rolled over so that his back was to her and clutched the blankets tightly.

"But it's your birthday. Your mother has planned a special breakfast."

"Since it's my birthday, I should be allowed to lie as long as I like," he replied in a petulant, muffled voice.

The servant, whose name was Molly, sighed and glanced at the stucco house again. A genteel, elderly couple lived there. They had pretty, well-behaved grandchildren who never stayed more than a week. Why couldn't she have found employment there instead of being burdened with this horrible, spoiled child?

"Wake up, Rupert, or your mother will be very cross!"

"She's never cross. She just gets 'headaches.' So go away!"

Jil said...

Gently she drew back the covers and leaned over, resting her cheek against the two year old's blond curls. "If only you were mine." she whispered, and one hand touched her own belly now empty of the one she had learned to love and then lost so soon.
Emily straightened. He was still there in that big house. Still lusting for her in spite of his fine wife and high position. He could give her another baby, another chance to have something of her own. But could she bear to go through it all again?
The child in the bed called her name and Emily went to her,giving her heart, but knowing this little one also could never be hers.

Elaine 'still writing' Smith said...

The fall of her steps, at first measured and dull with repetitious disdain, altered. Within the distance of a tread there was an almost imperceptible moment when her advance stalled before the pace increased to close the expanse between this servant and her despised destination. Hands clenched into fists within silken folds, bodice strained as the air was suctioned deep through distended nostrils, chin rose higher as her anger grew.

The swishing of her heavy satin skirt, soft like the gentle breeze that heralds the hurricane's destructive force, gave insufficient warning for, even if the alarm had sounded loud, there was now nothing that could be done to save the child from the full extent of her ire.

Iapetus999 said...

This is seriously not great writing.

The poor thing, with its white senseless eyes and sparkly skin. The thing chilled her, dead yet not dead. She turned back to the window. A flake drifted lazily to the ground. Behind her, a small noise. She looked down. A long knife protruding from her belly. She fell without making a sound.

Laura Martone said...

Forgive me, lapetus, but if you mean this particular novel is an example of terrible writing, I respectfully disagree.

Of Human Bondage is an excellent book - sadly, though, most modern readers just don't seem as enamored with classic novels as I am.

Perhaps that's why I'm not looking forward to revising my own novel - I don't exactly follow modern-day "rules."

Christine H said...

I think she meant what she posted wasn't great writing, Laura.

But that's okay... we're just here to have some fun and practice our writing muscles! Thanks for posting Lapetus999! Please stop by again.

Laura Martone said...

Hi, Christine. To be honest, I wasn't sure what lapetus meant, but since I liked what she wrote, I assumed she meant the novel excerpt. And given that all opinions are accepted here at CIC, I figured that it was okay to express mine, too!

But that's always the rub with blog comments, isn't it? I hope that people feel free to disagree - me included - but obviously, I don't want anyone to feel unwelcome. So, yes, please do stop by again, lapetus - and forgive me my passion for (and defense of) the classics. ;-)

Donna Hole said...

. . and paused, staring down at the slumbering infant.

"Oh, what a fate you have" the Nanny prophesied. "Unrequieted love; death; and a heartbreak worse than the previous revelations."

The Nanny kissed his newborn brow, sealing the future of the prince for all time.

"A kiss," she stated. "A kiss to break the bonds of fate; and give life where only death dwells. One by one, your loved ones will perish, until a stolen kiss from a fair maid in dire circumstances shall set you free."

The nanny brushed the new prince's rosey cheeck, and marveled at both the warmth of his life force, and the coldness of the fate that exuded from his innocent breath.

"Why?" she asked the beings of the universe.

When no answer came, she packed her belongings, and rushed into the arms of the Captain who'd shown the most humane interest in her thus far.

But running from fate was like running from death; and years later, the nanny was to learn this hard lesson.

Donna Hole said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Donna Hole said...

I'm having blogger troubles again, and this is like, the third time I've commented on this subject.

But, I'm going to join the moderator debate about Iapetuss; since I'm a follower of both blogs. I really think he meant his post wasn't up to par, not the prompt was lame.

Iapetuss99; don't take offense and not come back. Your comment was pretty vague. I got your "seriously not good writing" comment because I know you. Read the guidelines of this site and know that everything here is subjective to autor or character POV.

CIC; I've known Iapetuss99 to be a concientious blogger/writer. Give a first timer a break. Faldur, Kalila and Olivia might understand. Probably Ricky too.


Iapetus999 said...

Time out here.
Sorry about my comment. Didn't mean to disparage the whole book.
That excerpt wasn't really literary by modern standards. After reading a bit more, I see it's written in a more early 20th-century style. Today's writing is compact and sparse. The "narrator" is a thing of the past. But I think writing should be judged against their contemporary peers, so I'd bet this one stands up pretty well.

Sorry for making a ruckus.

Christine H said...

Wow, I guess Laura was right. Okay.

Well, personally, I prefer stories with narrators and I sincerely hope that technique has not been banished forever. I don't think it has.

I wouldn't say that the excerpt isn't literary. "Literary" refers to a particular type of story, i.e. one in which the characters don't necessarily solve a conflict, but come to a deeper understanding of themselves and/or life in general. I haven't read "Of Human Bondage" but from the title I would guess it fits.

I actually really liked the excerpt. I would go read the book, but I'm afraid it will be sad.

Christine H said...

P.S. The reason I like omniscient POV is that I love being able to understand what more than one character is thinking and feeling, in order to compare how all the different characters respond to the same situations. I find it a fascinating study in human nature.

Laura Martone said...

Christine - It IS very sad, but definitely considered literary fiction. Of Human Bondage is an excellent novel, but the author's The Razor's Edge is even better.

lapetus - No need to apologize. No ruckus occurred. I'm just very sensitive to the issue of modern-day writing styles. It disgusts me that agents only seem to be looking for "compact" and "sparse" writing these days - as if that's the only way to write. Believe me, I love that style, too - but I don't think the old styles should necessarily go the way of the dodo bird. I blame it on television, movies, texting, and Twitter - readers, in general, just don't seem to have time for the old styles anymore. I seem to be one of the few (that I know) who can embrace old and new. Anyway, your comment just hit a nerve with me... but, no harm done. Everyone's entitled to his/her opinion - even me. :-)

Christine H said...

Laura, I felt just as frustrated as you do for a long time. But then I actually went and browsed in a bookstore and realized that I was getting a biased impression from only reading certain types of blogs. Namely, those focused on genre fiction. If you look at what is really being published, there is a whole range of styles being used today.

Lapetus, I took a quick peek at your website and saw that you are writing sci-fi. I'm guessing that omniscient narratives are out of mode right now in that genre as in many others. But I wouldn't be surprised if, in ten or twenty years, the "camera on the shoulder of the main character" technique fizzles out and a "big picture" POV becomes popular again.

Laura Martone said...

Christine - Oh, I'm with you there. Reading the blogs, I get the distinct impression that agents are only looking for pared-down, "show don't tell" writing - but then, I go to a bookstore and realize that there are plenty of bestsellers and award-winners that do the complete opposite. Guess it's true what "they" say - sometimes, rules are meant to be broken.

At least, that's what I keep telling myself. :-)

P.S. Hey, who knew that a "first line challenge" would evolve into a discussion about the state of writing and publishing?

Christine H said...

I think everything goes in cycles. I mean, who would have thought bellbottoms would be popular again? LOL!

Jil said...

Some folks like showers, some like baths. I like to soak in my books; dwell in the atmosphere which carries the story. Therefore that is the kind of novel I write. There must be lots of other readers with the same preferences. We just have to find the agent who likes that kind of thing too. Perhaps they are too busy reading queries to write an extensive blog every day.

PS. We took an elderly Uncle, who proclaimed himself an artist, to a museum one day. On entering one room we faced a large painting and after a moment Uncle grunted, "Now this person
didn't have a clue how to paint."
It was a Monet.
To each his own...

Laura Martone said...

Haha! I love your P.S., Jil. Made my day. :-)

You and Christine are both right. Styles are cyclical, and opinions will always be varied.

This discussion has been fun! Thanks, lapetus, for opening up a proverbial can o' worms.