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: