Monday, July 24, 2017

First Lines From Famous Author's Short Stories

I'm overwhelmed and sad at our current political situation with the travesty that is the Trump administration. So, I thought side stepping into something light and interesting in the realm of writing might be handy.

I recently had to go through my old papers and found a wealth of story ideas, notes (many written on bar napkins from the 1980s, and odds and ends of things I'd written going back decades. One was two hand written pages where I had gone through a book of short stories and copied their first opening sentence of nineteen of the stories in the anthology.

There's others out there to be sure. But this is mine for myself from many years ago. Like, 50 Best First Sentences in Fiction. But I was focusing on science fiction. Another is, The 7 Types of Short Story Opening, and How to Decide Which is Right for Your Story.

My thought at the time was to study the opening lines from great authors and attempt to gain some insight for my own stories.  This is that list.

I got these from 100 Great Science Fiction Short Stories, when I wrote these down sometime after it came out in 1985.

A  Loint of Paw, by Isaac Asimov
There was no question that Montie Stein has, through clever fraud, stolen better than a hundred thousand dollars.

The Advent of Channel Twelve, by C.M. Kornbluth
It came to pass in the third quarter of the fiscal year that the federal reserve Board did raise the rediscount rate and money was tight in the land.

Plaything by, Larry Niven
The children were playing six-point Overlord, hopping from point to point over a hexagonal diagram drawn in the sand, when the probe broke atmosphere over their heads.

The Misfortune Cookie, by Charles E. Fritch
With an ease born of long practice, Harry Folger cracked open the Chinese cookie and pulled the slip of paper free.

I Wish I May, I Wish I Might, by Bill Pronzine
He sat on a driftwood throne near the great gray rocks by the sea, watching the angry foaming waves hurl themselves again and again upon the cold and empty whiteness of the beach.

Science Fiction for Telepaths, by E. Michael Blake
Aw, you know what I mean.

FTA, by George R.R. Martin
Kinery entered in a rush, a thick file bulging under his arm.

Trace, by Jerome Bixby
I tried for a short cut.

The Ingenious Patriot, by Ambrose Bierce
Having obtained an audience of the King an Ingenious Patriot pulled a paper from his pocket, saying: "May it please your Majesty, I have here a formula for constructing armour-plating which no gun can pierce...."

200, by Edward D. Hoch
The children were always good during the month of August, especially when it began to get near the twenty-third.

The Destiny of Milton Gomrath, by Alexi Panshin
Milton Gomrath spent his days in dreams of a better life.

The Devil and the Trombone, by Martin Gardner
The university's chapel was dark when I walked by it, but I could hear faintly the sound of an organ playing inside.

Upstart, by Steven Utley
"You must obey the edict of the Sreen," the intermediaries have told us repeatedly, "there is no appeal, "but the captain won't hear of it, not for a moment.

How It All Went, by Gregory Benford
At first they designed MKCT to oversee radar signals from the Canadian net and the Soviet Siberian net, to check that one did not trigger the alarm system of the other.

Harry Protagonist, Brain Drainer, by Richard Wilson
Harry Protagonist, space-age entrepreneur, had been planning the project since the Gus Grissom shot.

Peeping Tommy, by Robert F. Young
Tommy Taylor? Oh, he's coming along fine.

Starting From Scratch, by Robert Sheckley
Last night I had a very strange dream.

Corrida, by Roger Zelazny
He awoke to an ultrasonice wailing.

Shall The Dust Praise Thee?, by Damon Knight
The Day of Wrath arrived.

That's it. I don't know what that might tell us, but there it is.

According to a Wikihow article on first short story sentences:

How to start a short story introduction?
Part 2 Choosing Your Type of Beginning
  1. Start in scene. Many short story writers will try to start their stories in a scene, usually a scene that feels important and engaging. ... 
  2. Establish the setting. ... 
  3. Introduce your narrator or main character. ... 
  4. Open with a line of strong dialogue. ... 
  5. Present a minor conflict or mystery.
So, for what it's worth, even if the above tells you nothing (and it should), the first sentence is important. But don't let it seem so important that you never get to the second sentence, or the last.

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