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mark211Best first pages?2016-09-25 02:29:44
mark211Some time in August, I got into a heated online discussion with someone over a critique they had given to another writer on the beginning of their fantasy-based story. The issue at hand was that the person giving the critique had - very rudely in my opinion - told the writer that they simply could not be bothered to read past the first line on account of the fact that it had begun with a character waking up. To my mind, I felt that this was a needlessly cruel and pointless comment to make to someone asking for feedback on their draft work - I mean what is the point of telling someone you couldn't be bothered to read what they'd written as feedback? I thought this was one of the most idiotic things I had ever heard and went on to give some examples of award winning novels (e.g. Chris Beckett's 'Dark Eden'), best-selling novels (e.g. J.K. Rowling's first Harry Potter novel) and classic works of SF (e.g. Fritz Lieber's 'Swords and Deviltry') that either began with a character waking up or else began with a description of the weather (another 'trope' the critique-giver swore blind was a non-starter) or else a prologue (yet another 'trope' I have recently learned is apparently out of favour and therefore taboo for some mysterious and unknown reasons). 2016-09-25 02:41:07
mark211But that discussion did get me to thinking about how stories or novels begin and the importance the impact of those beginnings have on the success of the story in terms of ultimate reader engagement and enjoyment. So my question to you, fellow QM contributors, is what SFF short story or novel do you think has one of the best or most striking opening first pages or prologues? 2016-09-25 02:43:39
r.tornelloMy all time favorite," It was love at first sight" Catch 22.

I just love the book, the black humor. I can't help but believe that Joseph Heller was transported to the future, got an overview of the insanity, the convoluted logic of modern politics and total lack of reason, coupled with the ignorance of the masses and the manipulation of every part of life by business.

I realized this when I read it in 10th grade and every time I reread it i swear my observations and analysis must be true.

It's a bummer of the ultimate sort. I just though of something, he was the 1st Cyber Punk futuristic writer to get it totally correct.

2016-09-25 16:05:12
WessonIím on your side mark211. Geez, even prologues are under fire now? My next submission is going to be a blank sheet of paper, at least that wonít break any rules. Things like this are the reason Iím trying to hang up writing for good, Iím over this country-club attitude. My favorite first line is from ĎAnthemí by Ayn Rand: ďIt is a sin to write this.Ē It defines the oppressive and socialized world of the story perfectly. 2016-09-25 22:21:42
GordonRowlinsonIt is not Sci Fi but my favorite opening line is Dickens Tale of Two Cities. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity and on and on. Something I try to do with my stories is to start with some kind of action or spoken dialogue. I want to start with something that will grab the reader. However so many times I see pro writers starting with description--which I think is kinda boring. 2016-09-26 09:34:29
rtSorry I didn't answer your question directly, but that is my favorite first line.

A character waking up, hey? How about the planet waking up?

@ Wesson I'm with you too. Just write what you like. Fuckem and it is a country club attitude. Just go to a Convention and sit in some of the discussions sessions. It take about a nanosecond to figure it out.

2016-09-26 10:27:49
mark211@r.tornello While admittedly I was thinking of SFF, Catch-22 is an absolutely great novel, isn't it? I read it in my first week of university and loved it. In fact, I really must re-read it some time.2016-09-26 11:54:10
mark211@Wesson - "Geez, even prologues are under fire now?" well according to one guy, yes, although I remain sceptical. When we're talking about fiction writing or any creative endeavour, the rules are there to be broken - or if not broken then played with, tweaked, re-interepreted, turned upside down, thrown out the window etc. "Iím trying to hang up writing for good, Iím over this country-club attitude" I'm sorry to hear that - or to put it another way, I'm sorry that's your reason. If you'd said you want to hang up writing because you've just discovered how much fun hang-gliding is, or you are about to become a parent for the first time or whatever, then fine. But the "country-club" thing? No, no, no! Don't forget that when you're wanting to break taboos, there are legions of people who will curse you out for it. Rick is spot on - Fuck 'em and the horse they rode in on.2016-09-26 11:58:49
mark211@GordonRowlinson It's not SFF, but you're right there. Actually - and maybe this was because he wrote his novels as serialised episodes - pretty much *all* of Dickens' novels have brilliant first pages. "Great Expectations", "Bleak House" etc. - quite a few of his have some pretty striking openings e.g this second paragraph from "Bleak House" - "Fog everywhere. Fog up the river, where it flows among green aits and meadows; fog down the river, where it rolls defiled among the tiers of shipping and the waterside pollutions of a great (and dirty) city. Fog on the Essex marshes, fog on the Kentish heights. Fog creeping into the cabooses of collier-brigs; fog lying out on the yards and hovering in the rigging of great ships; fog drooping on the gunwales of barges and small boats. Fog in the eyes and throats of ancient Greenwich pensioners, wheezing by the firesides of their wards; fog in the stem and bowl of the afternoon pipe of the wrathful skipper, down in his close cabin; fog cruelly pinching the toes and fingers of his shivering little 'prentice boy on deck. Chance people on the bridges peeping over the parapets into a nether sky of fog, with fog all round them, as if they were up in a balloon and hanging in the misty clouds."2016-09-26 12:03:38
RT@Mark, It will not be funny as it was the first time around and each time I read it, it gets darker and closer to home. 2016-09-26 14:04:21
Wesson@mark211 - After reading what I wrote I guess I overreacted a bit, albeit your experience is the reason I'm not keen on getting critiques anymore. I'm teaching myself to draw manga - that's the main reason I've stopped writing. I've got a great pool of stories right now and I'd love to revise and illustrate them. 2016-09-27 08:15:07
micheledutcherThe tough part for me about starting a story is trying to figure out whose perspective it is told from. The main character can't tell the story if he dies in the end, for instance. It is possible to do god's viewpoint and just enter talking. You can throw historical facts into the mix, but I 2016-09-27 18:03:30
micheledutcherTried that and people hated it. I am on my 3rd rewrite. Whoever is viewing/ telling the story determines your first line. I try not to give up on a story but sometimes I can come back years later and use it.2016-09-27 18:06:47

Re from the Dead, yes you can, this is SCIFI.

Re: Historical facts see "The Best Alternative History of The Twentieth Century" edited by Harry Turtledove. Or Mozart in Mirror Shades.

2016-09-28 07:55:19
micheledutcherHi RT - you're right about scifi coming back from the dead. As far as historical facts, I'm writing re-writing a tale set in a historical place and time. I'm going to rewrite and resubmit it today. Fingers crossed. Every time I edit it, the story gets better, which is the whole point of authors critiquing each other. 2016-09-28 08:32:01

Or having a really good editor, who knows what they are doing, like someone we both know in Canada.Do I miss him.


2016-09-28 15:39:33
mark211@Michele: As you must know by now after all these several years, I really enjoy reading your fiction - however, you surprise me by saying "The main character can't tell the story if he dies in the end, for instance." I'm totally with Rick on this one - it's fiction - you absolutely can! More importantly, I think in your novel "Outrunning the Storm" you arguably already have (!)2016-09-30 12:15:37
mark211@Michele: "Tried that and people hated it." I so want to say "Ah, fuck people!" in response to this, but "people", whoever they are, are ultimately the readers so it is quite hard to take such a stance. Even so, sometimes I really do think that even if others see it as stubborn or even arrogant to ignore comments from readers, we write (I think) ultimately for ourselves - and if we like it, others almost certainly will. There's one caveat to that - you have to write with enough skill and clarity that people know what you meant. Notwithstanding my comments on your most recent story, I believe you have that skill. EOC.2016-09-30 12:20:18
Ironspider"It was St Crispin's Eve on Sad al Bari IV when Captain John Truck, impelled by something he was forced to describe to himself as 'sentiment', decided to visit The Spacer's Rave, on the corner of Proton Alley and Circuit (that chilly junction where the higher class of port lady goes to find her customers)." is the first sentence of The Centauri Device by M John Harrison. If you enjoy space opera, and if you haven't already done so, please read this book. I revisit this story once every couple of years and that first line always entices me in.2016-09-30 13:42:44

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