Amanuensis (amanuensis1) wrote,

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"Twenty-Five First Lines" Meme

The "twenty-five first lines" meme, from multiple people (cluegirl, schemingreader, bookshop, etc.)

Post the first lines from each of your 25 most recent fanfic pieces and try to find a pattern.

I love this meme, because it's showing me the flaws that I perceive in my own writing in a stark way. That surprises me because I'm always talking about how important an opening line is. Guess it's easy to talk about but harder to do.

Be aware I'm the sort of person who goes back to her fics six months later and wants to change every damned sentence.

1. Death Note, A Shinigami Fable

The realm of the Shinigami is not what it was.

This first one demonstrates a device: the story structure where the narrative voice is in itself a character. Where you sense an observer leading you through the story, a biased observer. You can usually tell the stories of mine that are told this way straight off, even in the first line. I like the way this first line works. It's short, it's simple, but you hear the judging voice of the narrator right away: wry, dubious, trying to give you a sense of languor and futility about what he's about to show you.

2. Pet Shop of Horrors/Death Note crossover drabble.

"Welcome to my pet shop."

And in this one I'm trying to orient you instantly to the fanfic universe and the character: if you know the 'verse then you know that this is D speaking, as it's his trademark phrase. And it's short, and it's a character speaking--those are my favorite openers, a short sentence contained in quotation marks.

3. Temeraire, Immortal

The two dragons were speaking French.

Again, I'm happy that this is short. Notice that this one doesn't have the sense of a biased narrative voice. It's a very bare statement to orient you to location and is not trying to influence you.

4. Harry Potter, What Could Have Been (And What Was)

It happens like this:

Another device. Sort of a narrative voice but one that has no character to it--it's more a hint at a narrative structure. I like this structure, so the use of it intrigues me when I see it, and the bareness of this particular one pleases me.

5. Harry Potter, The Two Magicians

"Bloody buggering bollocks!"

Short opening quotation and it's cussing. I'm satisfied.

6. Harry Potter, You Didn't Think They Just Sold It To Him, Did You?

"Pick up your filthy coin and get the bleeding hell out of here before I feed it to you."

This feels like it should have been shorter or broken up. Yet I'm still having a hard time seeing where. Oh, well.

7. Harry Potter, Even Closer To Me

"Like that?"

Short opening quotation. Makes the reader want to ask, "Like what?" Yeah, that's good.

8. Harry Potter, And Me?

"Ridiculous," muttered Severus, seeing no need to hide his irritation as he watched the incontinent little creature deliver its unsanitary tongue-bathing worship all over Harry's face.

OH DEAR GOD THERE IS NO EXCUSE FOR THIS ONE. Okay, maybe I can plead that it was a teensy drabble. But any excuse of "well, I was trying to set the stage in a single sentence because it was so short a ficlet, and I was using Snape's POV"--shut up, go back to first grade. *winces*

9. Harry Potter, Act of Faith

The Reina Católica, Isabel of Castilla, is having a crisis of faith.

I like this one myself, but it's got its problems--not so much the exposition, but the blandness of the verb isn't really worthy of the noun-ular complexity in the rest of the sentence. Probably should have structured that differently.

10. Harry Potter, Voldemort-centric Maxi-drabble

"Take him," said Voldemort, and six of his Death Eaters did just that, laying hands upon Severus Snape and dragging him to the lip of the Pit.

This one isn't bad. This one can use the "it's just a teensy drabble" excuse, because there's action in the exposition and a lack of extraneous words. Yeah, this one can stay.

11. Harry Potter, She Moved Through the Fair

The ballroom of Malfoy Manor is lit by several hundred candles, hovering well above the heads of the several hundred guests, casting light charmed to render all ladies fair and all gentlemen flattered in its pleasing glow.

I'm okay with this one because it's the narrative-voice-is-its-own-character device. He's allowed techniques like the repetition of several hundred to make a rhythm, to give most (but not all) of the nouns modifying adjectives, and to use verbs like "render." In an opener like this I'm warning you what you'll be getting as a story style, so that if you don't like it you can bail. I can't trick you into staying when the story has this kind of style, I mustn't or you'll be upset. You just have to choose it or not.

12. Harry Potter, Refined Tastes

"The third time is usually even more satisfying, I find," Lucius murmured.

This one's good. "Lucius murmured"--I know that after a sentence such as the one that he speaks, if it's Lucius and he's murmuring, he's in control, and the scene that follows is probably exactly as elegantly filthy as I want it to be.

13. Harry Potter, No Real Risk

He went alone to the manor, because he knew that his fears, while real and founded, did not actually mean there was any risk to his going.

I don't like the length of this but I'll tell you what I do like: that it starts with the word He. Not Harry. Harry would have distanced the reader, while He makes you want to know who the person is, sucks you in. The line is too long, yes, but at least I used the He.

14. Harry Potter, Huntsman's Compromise

"A little more? Of course," Lucius murmured, voice soothing as a cool hand on a fevered brow, as he brought the glass to the boy's lips again, tilted it just enough to promise Potter another mouthful if he strained, limbs pulling at the limit of his chains, dry tongue probing past the lip of the glass to lap at the water.

Ah, you see? Look what I did here. I didn't trust the reader to get that there was smut coming, so I shoved every bit of it into that first sentence. For shame. And there's that "murmured" again. I knew what I was doing with that murmured, this earlier time, but I didn't trust myself to let it sit. In number 12 above, which came later, I trusted both myself and the reader. Better that I learned to trust.

15. Harry Potter, This Time


I made it.

Letter structure. It works like a spoken quotation for me, and, again, I like it because it's short.

16. Harry Potter, A Bright Cold Day in April

Hermione remembers the precise moment she fell in love with Ginny Weasley.

Ah, that's almost perfect. I'm looking at that precise with regret, but otherwise, yes, if they all could be like this.

17. Harry Potter, The (Happy) Half-Blood Prince


One-word quote. And a proper noun that makes you say, "Wha?" Yup. I'm happy.

18. Harry Potter, Sovay

He dons the robe.

Oof. It's short, but, for god's sake, I wish I'd said, "He puts on the robe." Less pretentious. As it stands it would put me off if I were the reader.

19. Harry Potter, Hero Worship


I freaking love that.

20. Harry Potter, Scrimgeour's Man

"Mr. Potter," said the Minister for Magic, "I hardly think the issue of your socks is the battle you want to choose at this moment.

This feels wanting. I'm happy how this starts right in the heart of the porn, but the second part of the quotation feels overlong. Meh.

21. Harry Potter, One Night In October

James was dead and Lily's mouth was full of Bella's cunt.

My best opening line ever. Nuts to anyone who disagrees.

22. Harry Potter, Crazy Man Michael

Sometimes, in rare moments when he cannot summon the rage to thrust the thoughts away, Harry allows himself to remember the Half-Blood Prince.

If I could discard that Sometimes, I'd be mostly satisfied with the rest.

23. Harry Potter, And Of Course He Was Cleared Of All Charges, And Declared A Hero, But That's Not The Part You Want To Read, Now, Is It?

"Mr. Potter. What a pleasant surprise."

Okay, I cheated. I showed you two sentences. But it's also the complete opening paragraph, and I'm really really happy with it, short and spoken and right in the middle of the action as it is. And full of filthy promise.

24. Harry Potter, Tower Princess, Ravished

When he thinks of it, Harry imagines Sirius seducing him.

Narrative-voice-as-character device again. I'm satisfied with this one. It's like 22 above except I didn't use the Sometimes. And the verbs are more interesting than mere invisible helping verbs but they're not too unwieldy either.

25. Harry Potter, Sanguine, a Serpent Knotted Sable

When the cell door is flung open, it is hardly the most surprising moment of my life.

Lucius, did you really need that "hardly" there? Couldn't you have been satisfied with "not"? This is the only first-person example here, and I let the bastard put adverbs into the very first line. Shame on me.
Tags: memeage, writing meta
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