Friday, June 18, 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 Deliverance by James Dickey.)

Okay, are you ready? Here we go!

Ships at a distance have every man's wish on board...

15 comments:

Jesse Littleton said...

Ships at a distance have every man's wish on board...

...especially if he's stranded on a desert isle, and such a ship promises freedom from isolation. But how can a man signal a faraway ship with little more than crabs and coconuts?

Devi Marconi said...

Shoot, honey. If I had an endless supply of crabs and coconuts, I might not WANT to leave that little island.

Course, I'm not sure I could handle all that sunlight after living underground for so long...

Candy said...

and sometimes, to one of those men. his ship arrives at the front door in the form of a large white envelope.
That's what happened to my buddy, Bob.Instead of working he sent his wife out to earn the bacon while he waited at home for that proverbial vessel. In the meantime we'd get together on his front porch, drink beer and complain about the government. Life was good.
But then one day, that started like all the others, his ship did come in and all hell broke loose.

David Jace said...

That sounds like an interesting day, Candy.


Ships at a distance have every man's wish on board...

That is because those idle mortal fantasies are a poison to mankind, so must be kept far from them. Nevertheless, they will try anything to get to that far-off lane, young gods. Guard the ships well, or the mortals will destroy themselves. Come along, let's visit the Dock of Human Needs...

Elaine AM Smith said...

Ships at a distance have every man's wish on board...
held fast in holds dark or waved in eerie tops, inflating in the foreshortening. If the mighty galleons should ever come to port the misery harboured would be anchored with unreal expectations and tethered by sad realities.

Laura Martone said...

Nice going, everyone!

So, does anybody know the novel that features this first line? (And no Google-ing, Mr. Jace! Haha!)

Christine H said...

I have no idea, but I'm trying to think of it.

Since I haven't known any of the first lines you've posted I'm thinking my reading experience is pretty poor.

Christine H said...

Ships at a distance have every man's wish on board...

his wife, his children, his profits, letters from those still in England, comforts for life in the new world. Sugar, pepper, cloth, china, paper, Paris ribbons, books. All in exchange for tobacco - that blessed leaf which England loves without reason and America gladly provides.

David Jace said...

OH, love yours, Christine!! :D very nice.

Laura, I've no clue what this one comes from, but I'm guessing it has to do with a shipwreck?

Laura Martone said...

That WOULD make sense, David, but nope, it's not about a shipwreck. Actually, this first line turns out to be a metaphor for the difference between men and women.

The whole passage goes like this:

Ships at a distance have every man's wish on board. For some they come in with the tide. For others they sail forever on the horizon, never out of sight, never landing until the Watcher turns his eyes away in resignation, his dreams mocked to death by Time. That is the life of men.

Now, women forget all those things they don't want to remember, and remember everything they don't want to forget. The dream is the truth. Then they act and do things accordingly.

So the beginning of this was a woman and she had come back from burying the dead. Not the dead of sick and ailing with friends at the pillow and the feet. She had come back from the sodden and the bloated; the sudden dead, their eyes flung wide open in judgment.

The people all saw her come because it was sundown. The sun was gone, but he had left his footprints in the sky. It was the time for sitting on porches beside the road. It was the time to hear things and talk. These sitters had been tongueless, earless, eyeless conveniences all day long. Mules and other brutes had occupied their skins. But now, the sun and the bossman were gone, so the skins felt powerful and human. They became lords of sounds and lesser things. They passed nations through their mouths. They sat in judgment.


This novel was published in 1937 by Zora Neale Hurston - I remember reading it in high school. Now, can you guess the name of it?

Laura Martone said...

Howdy, Christine! I'm sorry if my first line choices have seemed a little obscure. I've been trying to touch on various genres... horror, thriller, literary, science-fiction... but many famous novels give themselves away in the first line. Gone with the Wind, for instance, begins with, "Scarlett O'Hara was not beautiful, but seldom realized it when caught by her charm as the Tarleton twins were." Dead giveaway, in my humble opinion.

But I'll sure keep trying to find titles that can be guessed!

David Jace said...

Well, I can't guess this one, I'm pretty sure I never read it. But I think you've done a great job of coming up with first liners. I've enjoyed it!

Candy said...

I've never heard of this one either but I love everything you've chosen. Any challenge that flips the imagination into gear is fun and exhilarating.And look how different we all are!!

I'd like to have Mr Jace as my school teacher!

Ps. My author tells me not to use so many exclamation marks but how else can I show my enthusiasm?

Laura Martone said...

Thanks, David and Candy! I'll do my best to keep challenging our little pool of writers creatively.

In the meantime, Candy, I wouldn't sweat the exclamation points too much. Personally, I think they've gotten a bump rap nowadays.

prashant said...

That is because those idle mortal fantasies are a poison to mankind, so must be kept far from them.
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