At Flash Fiction Chronicles on Friday, I wrote a post using Heraclitus’s “Character is destiny” quotation. He wasn’t talking about “character” in terms of modern story-writing, but rather “character” in terms of personal integrity. However, those three words struck me as particularly appropriate for the writing of flash fiction. Here’s an excerpt:
CHARACTER and PLOT: A particular character with specific strengths, flaws, and desires is put into a particular situation where he or she must take action and eventually resolve that situation either happily or tragically.Who that character is (strengths and weaknesses) determines the action taken in the given situation, and therefore also determines the results of that action. This revelation of character under duress is why we read, listen to, and watch stories
Today I wrote about the importance of a strong first sentence in fiction, particularly flash fiction. Here’s an excerpt:
In a story, especially a short story, the opening sentence, like thunder, arrests our attention, charms us, makes us curious. If it doesn’t, we’ll turn our heads, move on, and miss the show. More…
I also looked up famous first lines from novels. Here are some of my favorites. Feel free to post some of yours.
- “I was born twice: first as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day in January of 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of 1974.” Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
- “Last night I dreamt I went to Mandalay again.” Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier
- “I sent one boy to the gas chamber in Huntsville” No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy
- “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
- “Buck did not read the newspapers, or he would have known that trouble was brewing, not alone for himself, but for every tidewater dog, string of muscle and with warm long hair from Puget Sound to San Diego.” The Call of the Wild by Jack London
- “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was an age of wisdom, it was an age of foolishness, it was an epoch of belief, it was an epoch of incredulity, it was a season of Light, it was a season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
- “As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect.” The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
- “Art Mathews shot himself, loudly and messily, in the centre of the parade ring at Dunstable races.” Nerve by Dick Francis
- “Tyler gets me a job as a waiter, after that Tyler’s pushing a gun in my mouth and saying, the first step to eternal life is you have to die.” Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk
- “It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.” 1984 by George Orwell
All of those are really great openings. This one seemed to grab me:
“I sent one boy to the gas chamber in Huntsville” No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy
Straight From Hel
Here are five of my faborites.
“Call me Ismael.” Moby Dick by Herman Melville.
“It was love at first sight; the first time Yossarian saw the chaplain he fell madly in love with him.” Catch-22 by Joseph Heller.
“All this happened, more or less.” Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut.
“Marley was dead, to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that.” A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.
“The terror, which would not end for another twenty-eight years – if it ever did end – began, so far as I know or can tell, with a boat made from a sheet of newspaper floating down a gutter swollen with rain.” It by Stephen King.
I would say my favorite opening line would be from the underrated Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham:
“When a day that you happen to know is Wednesday starts off by sounding like Sunday, there is something seriously wrong somewhere.”
Thanks for commenting Johann. That's a great line. Appeals to me because none of my days feel like the day they are supposed to be!!!!