Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Beginnings are easy

Well, sort of.

Everyone struggles to create an opening to hook their reader. It's a fun practice to visit a book store or the library and crack open the book to the first page. Read the first sentence. You ask yourself — Is this for me? Do I want to read on?

The author makes the first sentence look so easy, but there are often many edits, revisions, drafts and tears over those first few words.

I read a post at Pantagraph.com the other day which highlighted 100 best openings from books. The list was compiled by the American Book Review. It's a nonprofit journal published at the Unit for Contemporary Literature at Illinois State University. The list spans centuries and decades.

I loved this one:
6. Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. - Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina (1877; trans. Constance Garnett)
A few of the openings stretched for sentences.

Some are very simple:
1. Call me Ishmael. - Herman Melville, Moby-Dick (1851)
The beauty of these openings it that the author continued on past those first words. He or she crafted a sentence that led to a paragraph, a page, a chapter and into a book.

To me, creating a beginning (not a perfect one mind you) is easy. It's pushing through to the additional pages that often gets me stuck.

I'm working on getting unstuck.

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