During writing group, several of us began talking about first paragraphs. So, I was wondering if you would like to share the best first paragraph that you've written. It doesn't have to be great literature, just the best you've done so far. Here is mine.
“Working for God is never easy,” Detweiler said as he jacked a twelve gauge shell into the chamber of a cutdown Remington. Behind him four others loaded their weapons. They stood at the front door of the abandoned hulk of Lawrence Talbot Junior High School, three miles from Cle Elum, Washington. A light snow fell.
I really like the last 4 words.
I don't construct first paragraphs. I do construct (sometimes) short prologues that contain action (murder). So I can't share.
To make up for the lack and because your ending reminded me, here's a chapter ending:
"The dying man muttered something, then his arm fell, and his limbs relaxed. The snowflakes settled on his open eyes."
This is not my best although, it always brings a twinkle to my eye to think of it.
“I was right, he was wrong. So, I rode four hard days to dig the bastard up just to say it to his stupid rotting face.”
It’s sort of a western horror story.
What's the purpose of a first paragraph? My thinking is it's mainly to intrigue and to get the reader to the second paragraph, but some authors do even more with it, such as begin to establish mood, atmosphere or voice. I'm thinking of the opening to Huck Finn:
You don't know about me without you have read a book by the name of The Adventures of Tom
Sawyer; but that ain't no matter. That book was made by Mr. Mark Twain, and he told the truth,
mainly. There was things which he stretched, but mainly he told the truth. That is nothing. I never
seen anybody but lied one time or another, without it was Aunt Polly, or the widow, or maybe Mary. Aunt Polly -- Tom's Aunt Polly, she is -- and Mary, and the Widow Douglas is all told about in that book, which is mostly a true book, with some stretchers, as I said before.
In the opening to my WIP I'm trying to establish voice as well as intrigue the reader:
I, Miles Trenowyth, write down this record at the goading of Dr. Horace James, practitioner in the newfangled black art of psychotherapy. Robbed by an injury of my ability to speak—at least at this time—I am unable to partake in the so-called Freudian talking cure. Thus I am induced to vomit my soul across these pages, to recall and recount in detail that which I would smoke an opium pipe to forget—Nay, every pipe in Chinatown!—given the chance.
i.j., D.L.R, Eric really great stuff. I don't think most readers truly appreciate how much work we put into writing. My first paragraph took days to get just right. I'm sure its true for you as well.
I'm getting interested in paranomals. I'm reading Laurell K. Hamilton's first book: Guilty Pleasures. Here is her first two sentences.
Willie McCoy had been a jerk before he died. His being dead didn't change that.
Thanks Brian. I have one first paragraph I've been working on for two years now :D. So I told myself I can't mess with it 'till I finish the last draft. Then I suppose I had better get it right.
Actually Hamilton's first book is not that bad. I enjoyed quite a bit. The blood sex stuff is not really my thing but, I guess it sells so...
He picked up on the first ring. “Yeah.”
Paul who? He thought for a moment, and the man answered the question without it being asked.
“Your little brother.”
“Oh.” He paused. “What do you want?”
“I need your help.”
Kevin could hear something in the voice now, tension, anger, stress. “What kind of help?”
“I can’t do this on the phone.”
That kind of help. That rocked him back, aside from the fact that his little brother hadn't ever called him, that he could remember, that his little brother would ask for his help, and the kind of help he couldn't talk about on the phone to boot. His mind went to the only logical conclusion, that his little brother was setting some sort of trap for him. Paully was a cop, Kevin remembered that much, even if he had to struggle to remember what the man looked like. “Are you serious?”
More than one paragraph, I know. This is from "Brotherly Love," a short story published in Beat to a Pulp a couple of years ago. One of my favorite stories.
This is really good, Is the story available. I'd love to read it.
Beat to a Pulp's archives are down at the moment. I guess I could release it to Kindle, have to make sure I have my rights back. This story finished pretty high in the ratings of the Preditors and Editors poll that year too.
I went to live with Aunty Dorothy after the funeral.
While driving to what would be my new home I asked Aunty Dorothy what a Godmother was.
“Do you smoke, Kate?”
“No, Aunt Dorothy. I’m eleven.”
I like this a lot. Sets up a great opening.
I fired my agent last week. Here's the opening with which I'm trying to land a new one:
You will understand soon enough why I borrowed the name Nataska, a spirit known as the Punisher of Wicked Children. First know it was my custom to hike and forage overnight in the mountains and deserts near southern California’s Salton Sea. These places -- the plants and rocks and creatures -- have been sacred to my mother’s people for thousands of years, and by living alone among them, fasting, sometimes drinking a toloache to invite the spirits, I was able to rejoin a natural, harmonious world the white man had nearly destroyed.
"You will understand soon enough why I borrowed the name Nataska, a spirit known as the Punisher of Wicked Children."
That's your opening 'graph or that's what you told the agent you fired?