This is the forty-sixth installment of The Curious Creative, weekly 10-minute writing exercises for busy individuals interested in exploring their creativity. For the complete rationale, click here.
Poets & Writers magazine has a column called “Page One: Where New and Noteworthy Books Begins.” It consists of 10-15 first lines from recently published books of fiction, poetry, and memoir. I am often introduced to great contemporary reads through this column, when I take a chance on a book because its first line struck me.
At a writer’s salon I recently attended, one of the prompts was to write as many first lines for a short story or a novel as we could in ten minutes. I asked if they needed be ones from books already written that we could recall, or if we were to invent ones of our own. The answer was the latter.
But I think there’s merit in collecting first lines from already published books.
I can’t help but think that part of creative play is collecting and gleaning beautiful things, that sometimes this is a necessary step in the writing process. For this week’s Curious Creative exercise, you will both glean and create interesting first lines.
- The first step is to pull a handful of books off your bookshelf and open them to their first pages. Record about five favorite first lines. Here are mine:
The shell collector was scrubbing limpets at his sink when he heard the water taxi come scraping over the reef.
The Shell Collector, Anthony Doerr
How angry am I?
The Woman Upstairs, Claire Messud
Six days ago, a man blew himself up by the side of a road in northern Wisconsin.
Leviathan, Paul Aster
He is flying.
The Aviator’s Wife, Melanie Benjamin
Notice that some are punchy and succinct, some throw you into the middle of a story enticing you to stick around to find out what’s next, and some ask questions.
- Now set the timer for 10 minutes and write as many first lines of your own. Any topic. Any style. Go for variety. Try some starting off in the middle of an action. Try some that ask a question.
- If you have the time, the obvious next
step, of course, is to take your favorite of these first lines and keep
How did you do? Did you notice effective strategies in the already published first lines? Did you create any of your own that would entice a reader to pick up your story and keep reading?
To encourage each other and grow a community of Curious Creatives, sign in from a google account so you can share your creation in the comment box below. Also, if you subscribe to this blog (submit your email address in the "Follow this Site by Email" box to the right), you will get an email update whenever a new exercise is added. Thanks for playing!