Tuesday, January 27, 2009
B IS FOR BEGINNINGS
Someone told me once that there are three parts of a book: the beginning, the end, and everything in between.
Trouble is, you can't get to parts two and three without a really excellent part one. Truly, a story or poem or book is nothing without a great start.
We may think "once upon a time," and all stories do start there, but of course it's not what we write. And clearly the days of “It was a dark and stormy night” are long gone in a society that craves action and lots of it. So as writers, we’ve really got to get in there and get moving FAST. Which, for me, usually involves razing the Front Porch: gotta clear out all that backstory and provide the reader with a wide-open front door.
Here are a few of my favorite beginnings:
All children, except one, grow up. Peter Pan - J. M. Barrie
In an old house in Paris that was covered with vines lived twelve little girls in two straight lines. Madeline - Ludwig Bemelmans
The night Max wore his wolf suit and made mischief of one kind and another his mother called him "WILD THING!" and Max said "I'LL EAT YOU UP!" so he was sent to bed without eating anything. Where the Wild Things Are - Maurice Sendak
Alice was beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sister on the bank, and of having nothing to do: once or twice she had peeped into the book her sister was reading, but it had no pictures or conversations in it, "and what is the use of a book," thought Alice "without pictures or conversation?" Alice's Adventures in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
"Where's Papa going with that ax?" said Fern to her mother as they were setting the table for breakfast. Charlotte's Web - E.B. White
When Mary Lennox was sent to Misselthwaite Manor to live with her uncle everybody said she was the most disagreeable-looking child ever seen. The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
"Christmas won't be Christmas without any presents," grumbled Jo, lying on the rug. Little Women - Louisa May Alcott
For many days we had been tempest-tossed. The Swiss Family Robinson - Johann Wyss
The first place that I can well remember was a large pleasant meadow with a pond of clear water in it. Black Beauty - Anna Sewell
Once, in a house on Egypt Street, there lived a rabbit who was made almost entirely of china. The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane - Kate DiCamillo
A long time ago, when all the grandfathers and grandmothers of today were little boys and little girls or very small babies, or perhaps not even born, Pa and Ma and Mary and Laura and Baby Carrie left their little house in the Big Woods of Wisconsin. Little House on the Prairie - Laura Ingalls Wilder
Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of threes steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta. Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
It was a pleasure to burn. Fahrenheit 451 - Ray Bradbury
Scarlett O’Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it when caught by her charm as the Tarleton twins were. Gone With the Wind - Margaret Mitchell
Mr. Bilbo Baggins of Bag End announced that he would shortly be celebrating his eleventh-first birthday with a part of special magnificence, there was much talk and excitement in Hobbiton. The Fellowship of the Ring - J.R.R. Tolkien
And because Amy asked, here’s the beginning of my very own The Witches of Gee’s Bend:
“Mama always said every quilt tells a story.”
If you’ve got favorites, I’d sure love to hear ‘em!