Saturday, January 19, 2019

First lines and first loves

“There once was a cat….” is possibly the first line to (possibly many) of the first of my short stories as a child.

 As I grew into an adult writer, it didn’t change much: “Her striking beauty stared up at me from the front page of the Monday edition of The Daily Reporter.” It is a more polished sentence and hopefully has a little more catch, but it still refers to a cat. This is the first line from my first published novel, the middle grade mystery, “The Great Cat Nap.” It is the first in a series of adventures of Ace the Cat.

First lines for me are always much like a new love interest. They are shiny and new, full of possibility and wonder. Expectation, promises, butterflies in the stomach, blushing. The adventure of learning an entirely new language - the language of someone else, the language of this particular story. Hope. First lines are the start of potential, a fiery spark, and an entirely new journey through the brambles and tangles that are my mind and imagination. And I do not want the magic to end.

Much like falling in love, with starting a new novel, I lose my steps. Time collapses. All I am consumed with is this new novel ideal. I talk to myself mid-day, stretching that first sentence into futures and dialogue, plot lines and characters rich with depth, yet also crashing tensions and disaster, a moment of all lost hope, and finally, a happy ending. Or, mostly happy endings. You’ll find I don’t always believe in them in their entirety.

It’s true not all of my novels – or my unfinished manuscripts sitting on my computer like stones waiting to be unearthed from the beach – they did not all start with that first line, though so many of them have for me. Others began with a thought, a strand, a single word uttered by a character who begins to haunt me. Begging me, really, to write their story.

Writing in general is much like being in love, and many times, you fall out of love, just like with some manuscripts. Not all stories are meant to be finished, no matter how good that first line is, so not all of them will be. That's okay. Some are all right to be started and shelved until they are ready to reveal all their secrets and then be completed another day, month, year. Others, however, will be the best of you, the very best of your love and your life. They will endure the test of time and writer's block and self-doubt and rejection and fear. And if you’re really blessed, you’ll get to share that writing with someone else. You’ll share it with readers who crack the spine to lay their eyes on that very first line. That book will endure the test of time.

Happy reading!


(photo courtesy of istockphoto.com)

To celebrate the new year, I will be giving away a personally signed copy of The Great Cat Nap right here at Smack Dab in the Middle! To enter, just comment what your favorite first line is, or what book has your favorite first line. At the end of January, I will choose a random winner and mail the paperback copy. Good luck!


(photo by AM Bostwick)

7 comments:

  1. In keeping with the CAT theme, one of my favorite first lines comes from CRENSHAW,by
    Katherine Applegate; "I noticed several weird things about the surf-boarding cat".

    Since I've already read your wonderful book, don't enter my name in the give-away. Love this post.

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  2. My all time favorite first line is by E.B. White, "Where is Papa going with that ax?"
    First lines can be like a fish hook, catching the reader and reeling them in.

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    1. Margaret! You are the winner of The Great Cat Nap! Just send me your address and if you'd like the book signed to anyone, the name, and I'll mail it out! Thanks and congrats! abigail.bostwick@gmail.com

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