Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Perfect Opening Line

It's every writer's dream isn't it?  To write that line that impels people to read on.  The one that hooks the reader so firmly that they forget where they are and what they were doing.  It's a tough job and plenty of writers have lamented over their opening line.  I'm kinda stuck there myself at the moment which is what prompted this post.

There were some great examples I read in the chapters submitted for the New Voices competition and I've been back through many of my favourite books, just focusing on that first sentence.  But none of them stand up to the opening lines entered in the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction contest, where entrants are encouraged to write the worst opening line of a fictional novel.  You can read the results of this year's competition here but I thought I would include my personal fav - just to give you a laugh (or maybe not if your humour isn't a little twisted like mine)!

Winner: Purple Prose
The dark, drafty old house was lopsided and decrepit, leaning in on itself, the way an aging possum carrying a very heavy, overcooked drumstick in his mouth might list to one side if he were also favoring a torn Achilles tendon, assuming possums have them.
Scott Davis Jones
Valley Village, CA

There are certainly more that got me giggling.  I suppose they're a lesson in how NOT to write a great opening line.  The most depressing thing is that you have to be a really good writer to write something so awesomely bad.  Bad writers just write crap - not clever crap but the kind that make you wonder if the writer has the kind of friends who think it's funny to say things like: "Are you kidding me Hershel, that's got to be the best damn thing I've ever read!  Of course you should enter the competition" while trying not to laugh or maybe......just no friends at all.


Maisey said...

You know...I got dishonorable mention in the Bulwer-Lytton a couple years back...for real. You can google it.

Lacey Devlin said...

I can't decide whether a dishonorable mention is a good or bad thing when the task is to write a fantastically bad first line.

Lacey Devlin said...

I just googled Maisey's entry and it's hilarious! Definitely go have a look!

Maisey said...

Lacey, *bats eyes* I am a woman of many talents...

Elissa Graham said...

Maisey, you're a star. That's the sort of achievement I find so endearing - no wonder you're my hero. But you just know a cold analogy sooner or later is going to mention mucus and then my ewwwww-o-meter goes off. Nasty, nasty girl! I love it.

Perhaps M&B should start their own Bulwer-Lytton comp??? Bet they'd get more than 824 entries for that!