Like a Damn Tornado

These Trifecta writing contest things (that I will never win, that don’t bring any prizes or even all that much publicity, but do offer good fun and great writing prompts) often make me want to expand on them or offer alternate entries.  Although their “crowd” can be a little bit “off-color” at times, they are usually a bit reserved for my tastes.  You know, like James Bond movies are a bit reserved, like many movies or books are a little reserved.  “Goldfinger”, though it is a wonderful movie, would be even better if they’d actually show Double-O Seven bending Pussy Galore over a bale of hay in the barn, perhaps even have Goldfinger walk in on them, shake his head and chuckle and walk back out, rather than just cut away to the next scene after they kiss.  Christopher Reeve and Margot Kidder engaging in “69” in mid-flight over Manhattan, Scarlett riding Rhett, a sequel to “The Wizard of Oz” in which the Lion is more beastly and less cowardly with the grown-up Dorothy, all would be improvements, I’d venture.  In that vein, I give you the first line of a different type of book (not sure how we went from books to movies to books again here–maybe I’m hoping to actually finish writing a book and have a movie made out of it someday–without cutting out the good parts, of course):


“Joe, don’t you agree that a night with Freddie here’s mother is like being picked up by a tornado–you’re not sure where or even if you’re going to be put down safely, but you know you’re going to be in for one helluva ride.”


Probably no threat to “The Grapes of Wrath” on anyone’s all-time great book list, but the casual book-shopper might at least want to read on.

A great opening line makes for a great seduction, and a different kind of opening line makes for a great lure to get a reader to read more of that particular book.  The Trifecta folks refer us to this list of supposedly great opening lines, some of which I agree with, and some I don’t whatsoever.  Number 21, the opening line to James Joyce’s “Ulysses”, talks about a man walking down the stairs with shaving supplies.  Big whoop.  Number 75, “A Farewell To Arms” by the wildly-overrated Ernie H., tells us that there was a village with a view of some mountains.  Again, big whoop; doesn’t draw me in whatsoever.

Number 49 on their list, “The Crow Road” by Iain Banks, has this great opening line: “It was the day my grandmother exploded.”  Number 53, the great “Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury, starts with “It was a pleasure to burn.”  Now these two make me want to keep reading.  In my own little library of non-collector’s editions, I found (yes it’s a short story book, but still) “From Death to Morning” by Thomas Wolfe, with the great opening line:  “It is wonderful with what warm enthusiasm well-kept people who have never been alone in all their life can congratulate you on the joys of solitude.”  Or, from D. H. Lawrence’s “Lady Chatterly’s Lover”:  “Ours is essentially a tragic age, so we refuse to take it tragically.”  Much better than fucking Hemingway, I’d say.  But I am in the minority opinion about Ernie, I know.

My multi-talented blogging friend, H. E. Ellis, in her book “The Gods of Asphalt” offers us a great opening line “There’s a moment that happens just before you crash that no one in driver’s ed tells you about.”  The rest of the book does not disappoint, either.  Some books, classic or not-so-famous, are fine books but don’t have really catchy opening lines.

Let’s work on a good closing line, shall we?  How about:  “I’m tired of writing, and it feels like it’s nap time anyway, so let’s just say they all lived happily ever after and leave it the fuck at that.”

Here’s a song with a great opening line:

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4 Responses to Like a Damn Tornado

  1. Hmmm. I agree with a lot of you say about opening lines. I hate them most, though, when they stretch into pages that don’t at least hint at subtext for the offending listless line.

    (I want to go and read those other first lines you refer to and see if it’s maybe language, some sort of poetry in it, that supposedly makes them good, but I’m still refusing to go back there. I rather doubt they would know anyway.)

    You made me go back and read my own first line of Entanglement. Thing is, when I edited it last, I wondered if it was right, but had trouble finding a suitable change. A blogging friend also suggested it begin with more action, so I’ve been thinking on it. When I went back just now, I realized why it was there. That line came to me first when I began. Today it looks like a good opener again. I don’t know about tomorrow.

    Here it is should you care to say yea or nay here. (I know you’re not rambling around these days.): “When she returned to the couch, Aliss had suggested it was time for Miller to leave, and he wasn’t happy about it.”

  2. That link would be safe for you, Re–it’s not affiliated with the Tri-folks at all, just a link that they quoted. It’s infoplease dot com, which must be the online version of the old Information Please Almanacs. I guess, for me anyway, a great opening line is an attention-grabber first and a key to the story, characters, plot, or whatever, second.
    No, I certainly haven’t been rambling around these days, but I’m starting to a little. The trouble with some blogs, and with my patience level, is that I will commit the few seconds to read some blogging fluff, or some obviously primarily humorous piece, with great ease, but if it’s going to make me think more, like yours or the hat lady or a few others, I put them off to read later when I can give them due time. Not necessarily fair, but it is the way I am sometimes. The bombardment of TV and internet input really does train us to not put forth the effort to read any serious writing sometimes too, I think. Which is sad. I’ve been forcing myself to take time to read late at night again, which I got away from for quite awhile. And I’m trying to catch up on “classics”, many of which I’d never read, rather than go check the latest mystery out of the library. Would you believe I’ve never read A Tale of Two Cities until now? You can’t write if you never read, right?

    I think your opening line works fine; it makes us want to find out WHY she’s sending him away, after all. Or if he’s going to be decent about it.
    Thanks for reading as always.

  3. Marie says:

    “It was the day my grandmother exploded.” I would totally ravish that book. As long as the following line doesn’t disappoint. The danger of a killer entry is you have to keep it up. And I totally agree with you on Hemingway. I tried reading one of his books and it just annoyed me. I was annoyed. And I really wondered what the craze was about (so much so that I wrote a post about it!)

    p.s. now I have to read the Gods of Asphalt… because that beginning line is totally true.

    • One of the worst reading experiences I ever had was trying to read a paperback of “For Whom the Bell Tolls”–it was a very poorly manufactured book, printed way off center on the pages, so that I would frequently have to nearly pry the book open all the way to where the pages were attached to the spine, in order to see all the words, only to have to endure long-winded descriptions from the man who is so revered for being “economical” with words. Not in that book, he wasn’t.
      H.E. hasn’t been blogging much (working on several different writing projects at once, it appears) but here is her address:
      Thanks for reading.

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