I know we’ve all heard at one point or another, that opening lines or paragraphs are crucial to the success of a story. Awhile back, I was chatting with some creative friends and the topic of terrible opening lines came up. Off the top of my head, I invented the following sentence.
Shivering in sodden furs, Koragh peered out of the cave as hurried clouds shed fetid streams.
I was surprised when several people responded favorably to it. After some thought, I put it in the first line of a new story and let it grow. In the end, I was pleasantly surprised at the short story that came from what I thought was terrible. Here’s the first couple of paragraphs:
“Shivering in sodden furs, Koragh peered out of the cave as hurried clouds shed fetid streams.”
Officer Mark Droves tossed the paperback over the seat. “Damn! I can write better than this crap.”
Officer Todd Davis almost choked on his cheeseburger before replying. “Well, why don’t you? Hell, you been braggin’ about knowing how to write ever since I’ve known you. So far, all I’ve seen have been a couple of pretty good short stories, and several hundred arresting officer reports.”
Let us segue to about a year ago. I was in the middle of editing a series of urban fantasy novellas and short stories. The goal was to create a single, cohesive novel with a few recurring characters. That horrible opening line was incorporated into a new urban fantasy novel. Since then, Shifter Shadows has turned into a one hundred and twelve thousand word tale that starts in early prehistory and ends in the near future.
With that bit of background, here’s a list of opening lines from some of my tales.
- Shivering in sodden furs, Koragh peered out of the cave as hurried clouds shed fetid streams. – Shifter Shadows (urban fantasy)
- A blacktop ribbon disappeared into the distance between rows of waist-high corn while a distant rumble grew louder and coalesced into a lime-green sports car. – Multiplarity (science fiction)
- He stared at the bleak landscape and muttered to himself. “Dust. Nothing but dust. I hate dust.” – Multiplarity (science fiction)
- Damn! It felt great to be alive! – Shibari Sails (modern pirate adventure)
- Only a slight breeze ruffled the warm waters of the lagoon as the galleon swung free, seaweed and barnacles crusting her anchor chain, broken mizzen still waiting to be repaired. – Tinkerzdamn (fantasy)
- This Monday was different. The moment her mother hugged her and tried to leave, Inara clutched the young woman’s leg and begged her not to go. –Shadows and Shades (paranormal romance)
What do you think? Do they entice you to read the rest?