Friday, August 12, 2011

"Beginnings are always messy."

John Galsworthy said that. It's as true of the first blog post as it is of most endeavors: starting a novel, overhauling a career, sorting out a new friendship. Galsworthy should know -- in his grand opus, which snagged him a Nobel prize, he managed to juggle dozens of main characters over many generations; The Forsyte Saga seemed to go on forever, like life -- not the individual life, but the sprawling mucky whole of it.

(that's Galsworthy, above, contemplating another messy beginning)

And then there were all those sequels! An entire trilogy called End of the Chapter, which turned out to be no ending at all. Then One More River. At the height of his career Galsworthy was publishing three, four books a year.

Beginnings obsess writers. We pour over the first lines of our betters and mentors, searching for clues. On her kidlit blog, agent Mary Kole ran a contest a couple of days ago, where aspiring authors submitted their first lines for dissection. We had a handful of words in which to convey character, emotion, plot, theme, genre. Talk about the world in a grain of sand!

In today's market, beginnings are almost never messy, at least not the ones that make it to the shelves. Those beginnings cut to the chase. They break from the gate like overtrained thoroughbreds.

So, to honor new beginnings, here are a few famous fictional first lines, good ones to chew over.

"It was a bad time."
"124 was spiteful, full of baby's venom."
"We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold."
"All this happened, more or less."
"It was love at first sight. The first time Yossarian saw the chaplain, he fell madly in love with him."
"Once upon a day an old butler named Eldon lay dying in his room attended by the head housemaid, Miss Agatha Burch."
"The grandmother didn't want to go to Florida."


  1. Am I first? I'm first!! Woot! I think you picked a fabulous topic for your first post. Speaking as a writer, beginnings suck. They are the spawn of Satan. I never know where to start my stories and so usually end up picking the wrong spot. Multiple times. Glad to know I'm not the only one. Misery loves company, and all that...

    Congrats on your blog. I look forward to more posts!

    Becca @ The Bookshelf Muse

  2. I'm with Becca!

    Gail, congratulations on your new blog. It looks like it will provide lots of fodder. Can't wait to read more posts!

    A terrific beginning . . .

    All best,

  3. Oh, I love The Forsyte Saga, (the mini series, not the book.) I've been thinking of rewatching it lately. But then I'll be hopelessly drawn in and it will suck up all of my writing time. Maybe I should read the book. Much easier to justify.

    Congrats on the new blog. I am a brand new blogger myself.