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writing deskI’m on target to meet my short story writing goal for December: 3 stories! I’m halfway through writing the third story and on track to complete it before 2018 begins.

If you’re new to this site, I’m in the midst of a 14-month plan to write, revise, and start querying my next short story collection. The main draft phase is October through February and I’m writing 2-3 stories per month during this time.

Last month I shared some of my favorite lines from the stories I wrote in November. For December, I’m sharing the first lines of all the stories to date.

Writers must measure ‘the hook’ in many different areas of their work. The beginning of a story, poem, or book, the first line of your query letter to land a literary agent, the opening of a proposal to speak at an event–those first few words hold the power. How we craft the opening must get readers’ attention, whether the reader wears the hat of book buyer, literary agent, or conference committee member.

I’m a fan of powerful first lines. Even if I know the scene where I want the story to start, if I don’t have the right first line, I won’t start writing. Here are the first lines of the stories I’ve written over the past few months:

Fred pulled the quilt taut over his head while he waited for the clinks of the milkman’s delivery.

Al wanted to rip the wood trim off the car and throw rocks through the windshield, but he knew his efforts were best reserved for stealing the car instead.

The living room window opens to a brick building an arm’s stretch away, and Ethel often wonders why they did not frame paintings of brick walls around the apartment to give the illusion they have more windows.

When my shift is over, I look at all the precious ribbon.

Harriet’s bloodshot eyes follow the spine of railroad tracks.

Fred’s about to drop the motor back in the water when he notices he’ll catch the lines of a father and son fishing from land.

Jimmy stood on a street corner near Washington Square Park that offered the perfect mix of customers.

Al hadn’t left the attic in five years.

Veronica had driven four hours to the empty house and didn’t have a key.

As a fun exercise, take a handful of books (fiction or memoir) off your shelf and read the first line or two. What do you notice about them?