As with the last exercise, here we are using a “stolen” first line to jump start our ideas.
Page 20 in the book.
A few of their examples of first lines:
- I was ashamed of my conscience. – Tim O’Brien
- She rolled her eyes and screwed up her mouth and stuck her leathery thin face into his smooth bland one. – Flannery O’Connor
- The hall was clogged with bodies; none of them hers, but who could be sure? – Leonard Michaels
“The exercise: Take your stolen sentence and use it as the beginning of a story, free-associating. Try writing all in one rush, under pressure, for 20 minutes or so. Then go back and revise with art.
“The objective: To surprise the mind with the no-mind, the way a quick sketch frees up an instinctive sense of form for painters; also to summon a sense of meaning and form without premeditation and to discover the importance of opening sentences.”
One of their examples:
- I was ashamed of my conscience. Ashamed for worrying because this wasn’t a riot. That I was not with otherwise respectable and law abiding friends, who, when the mobs of heat driven protesters broke wild suddenly, when shop windows burst from anonymous bricks, when burglar alarms sounded futilely in a melee of emergency sirens; one and all, without second thought, joined with looters on all sides, climbed through display windows in a holiday of theft and lust. There was no Bernice, star law student at Boston University, child of Scarsdale, impressive feminist and environmentalist, suddenly rush-grabbing lingerie and cocktail dresses, coats, slacks, scarves, sweaters, and more and more, arms full to spilling. There was no Stand, fitness buff, computer engineer, breaking loose in the darkened liquor mart, brazen with a shopping cart. (Paragraph break) There were no strangers, no wild-eyed hoards. Just me, alone.
Here’s mine, with the first line taken from Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn:
- When I think of my wife, I always think of her head. When we first met, it was a beautiful head, perfectly shaped. Perhaps because I am a brain surgeon I notice those little oddities like the shape of a head, perhaps more than other people. My head is quite round, as is our son’s. But my wife’s head is – was – an oval: elongated, elegant, eloquent. About once every two years she used to cut her hair short, to chin length, offering up the next beautiful attribute: her neck. As graceful as a swan, as smooth as ice, I loved nothing more than to rain kisses up and down that beautiful neck. Now, when I think of my wife and her beautiful head and graceful neck I can’t help but picture it all smashed against a rock, which was how she was the last time she was alive, right before she was no longer alive.
Okay, mine is a bit morbid, but Halloween is coming up, right?