Great Opening Lines – and Why! (Part 1 – Introduction)

The difference between a good Scotch, a good wine and a good sentence has a lot to do with being a good mechanic

This post is the first in a series on what makes any story’s – flash through novel – opening line great. Let me know what you think are great opening lines and I’ll include them in the series provided you explain what makes them great.

Stanley Fish’s How to Write a Sentence: And How to Read One is a good, fun read.

Fish writes about beautiful sentences and how they’re constructed. He offers that Strunk&White is useful only if you already know lots of grammar and such. I’ve got no problem with that (have you read Strunk&White? It’s a treasure trove. Are you an author or author-wannabe? Do yourself a favor and read it).

Strunk&White is basically a mechanic’s manual for producing clear, understandable content in the English language, meaning unless you’re willing to get a set of wrenches and such and unless you’re willing to open the hood or climb under your sentence, don’t read the book, you won’t understand it and will probably do both yourself and your prose harm if you do.
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Can I be honest about your writing? (Part 1 – Oh, the Vanity of it all!)

My child’s a genius. Your child’s precocious. Their child’s an obnoxious brat. – We use language to distance ourselves from uncomfortable truths

Note: this will be a multi-post arc on the theme of storycrafting versus publishing. Hope you enjoy.

Long, long ago (we’re talking late 1980s early 1990s) when we called vanity publishers “vanity publishers”, I knew a fellow who just had to get his book in print. I think the title was “The Decapitation Project”. We were in a workshop together and it didn’t matter what he submitted, everything got back to The Decapitation Project and how it was based on fact and the government had a secret lab where they were keeping heads alive.

You mean like Donovan’s Brain?

“That was a book. The Decapitation Project is real.”

A friend told me they saw him at a con with a table selling copies of his book (again, decades ago).

His self-published book.

Except back then we called it “vanity published” and it was something one only admitted to if asked.

When you had a gun pointed at your head.

If then.
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Ritchie&Phyl (A Celebration of Life) Chapter 3 – Porkchops

Wise Kitty

Hecate, lying stretched out on the couch, reached one paw into the last bit of sunlight coming through the picture window.

Phyl ran her fingers through the cat’s fur. “What you looking at?”

Hecate blinked lazily.

“Comfortable, are we?”

Hecate purred like a tiny electric motor.

“Of course you are. I’ll bet you’ve never wanted a man.”

Hecate sighed and continued purring, gently quaking the cushion.

“Of course you haven’t. You’re a cat. What could you want with a man? For that matter, why don’t you sit in my lap and make us both happy?”

Hecate rolled onto her back, her legs still stretched out, purring, her eyes on Phyl.

“You’re a slut, you know that?”

Phyl’s mobile said, “Hey, Sister, Pick Up! Hey, Sister, Pick Up!”

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Santa’s Shamanic Origins

[[Note: this originally appeared on the Discover the Practive website]]

Some people know that the modern Santa concept (heavy male, white hair, red suit, et cetera) was created by the Coca-Cola company as part of a marketing campaign; Coca-Cola wanted to get children as a market but were forbidden by law from directly marketing to them. Their solution was to create a character that benefitted children (gave gifts) and the children in return would reward this giftgiver with a bottle of Coke. So we weren’t marketing to children, but if those kiddies wanted to get gifts…

Coca-Cola's Santa

 
The nearest “historic” Santa was the 19th century Bokkerijders, a group of Belgian laborers who performed Robin Hood like acts. The church denounced their activities as Satanic although the poor appreciated waking to gifts of food and money on their doorsteps. Prior to that, a St. Nicholas myth comes from the Slavic countries. There, St. Nicholas had a “Dark Helper” who was dressed in black, had horns and pointed ears, all based on Santa’s shamanic origins.
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Sheldon, The Jewish Christmas Tree

Holiday Greetings from Sheldon, the Jewish Christmas Tree

We found out today our Christmas Tree is Jewish.

There was nothing overt. Nothing obvious. We found out the hard way.

First, Susan and I don’t celebrate Christmas so much as celebrate Solstice. It’s not that we’re Pagan or Wiccan, we simply prefer to celebrate Nature’s events. Much less confusion regarding days and dates, no variations on a theme, no Orthodox versus Reformed, no Baptist versus Catholic, no Sunni versus Shia, et cetera.

I mean, if you’re pagan you’re pagan you’re pagan. Pretty much a Wood Spirit is a Wood Spirit, a Guide is a Guide, a Totem is a Totem and so on.

Part of our Solstice celebration involves getting a tree, lighting it, putting gifts around it.

Sound like Christmas?

Guess again. Christians stole those ideas.

We got a tree at the Rotary. They sell trees every year in the shopping center parking lot.

We put it up, we were decorating it, Susan sipped some wine, I tippled a bit of Scotch. We started singing some Pagan Wodes (you can find them and hear them if you know where to look). Pagan Wodes tend to be simple. Religions, when they started, borrowed from them. They were easy to sing, everybody already knew them, tack on a Jesu or whatever and you were good to go. The modern wodes make use of modern musicianship. Quite interesting, they.

So there we were, singing. One or two choruses in, we hear a soft humming.

Every once in a while the humming would be interrupted by a word or two in Yiddish.

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