Wednesday, April 11, 2012

First Line as Dialogue: My Example

Just like your day,
your story needs a good start. :)
(Image: © Demid | Dreamstime.com)
Last year I took the first scene of my work in progress All That Glitters (God, I suck at coming up with titles) to a writing meeting.  We sat in a big circle and read our first page aloud, then received feedback.  The goal was to bring something you knew needed improvement and brainstorm some ideas with the other participants. 

My first paragraph was:

          The floor creaked at the top of the stairs.  Someone was coming down.  Annie straightened her shoulders but didn't look up.  She had almost positioned the Santa and reindeer on the top of the paper house, the last detail of her Christmas village. 

When I finished reading, the first question I was asked was "What genre are you writing?" 

Apparently, with the floor creaking and the mysterious person coming down the stairs, it felt ominous and mysterious to the others.  It was interesting to me, because I hadn't thought about it like that (ah, the benefits of getting crits). 

So, we chatted about a a few options and we came up with an alternate first paragraph, which is:

          "Annalisa?" 

That's it.  A name and a question mark in quotations.

I'm still debating this.  I see the problems with my first opening, but I also see problems with the second one. 

In the first option, the setting is introduced.  You see the character, her activity and a bit of her behavior.  You know someone else is coming.  Does it raise questions?  A few I suppose, but, based on the feedback, not the right questions. 

In the second option, we do not know who is speaking (male, female, child, adult, etc).  We do not know where they are.  We know next to nothing.  But, it is also very short, so perhaps a reader would be willing to stick it out and read the next line to find out a bit more information.  On the other hand, the story is all about Annalisa - or Annie, as she prefers to be called - so in some ways, the opening line may be appropriate. 

For reference, here are the first six sentences (so that bit of dialogue and the next 5 sentences):

          "Annalisa?"
          Annie bit her lip.  She didn't have to answer to 'Annalisa' any more.  Nope - she was just plain old Annie.
          Crap, he was coming downstairs. What did he want? 

How do you feel about dialogue as the first line? 

7 comments:

Donna Cummings said...

I actually like dialogue as an opening line, and tend to use it rather frequently. :) It feels like you're right in the midst of things that way, so I find it intriguing.

I like your opening. I know that it's a name she doesn't want to use anymore for some reason, and she's not happy with whoever is showing up. It would make me keep reading to find out some answers!

Chantel Rhondeau said...

I actually usually don't prefer dialogue, but I think it works in this case. Honestly, the second example has a bunch of questions racing through my mind and I would keep reading.

I think her thoughts are very revealing in the second example. I want to get to know her more. Just my 2 cents worth! Good luck!

patonlorraine said...

Thanks, Donna! This is the first time I've started with dialogue, so it still feels shiny and new. :) I'm glad to hear you'd keep reading!

patonlorraine said...

Thanks, Chantel! I'm glad to hear this intro raises questions and you are curious about her. :)

Teresa Cypher aka T K CypherBuss said...

I am inclined to agree that the first line dialogue works. It begs the question, who is calling for her? With the additional information, we know that it is a he...and she is not happy about his presence. I like it, Loraine. :-)

In the first example, although a time of year is introduced, it lacks the unhappiness she feels at the unknown other person. And I felt as though she was indifferent to whomever was coming down the stairs.

Oh my...how much introspection into six lines. Humbling when we think how many six line pieces are in each novel. But, the first six lines are so important. :-)

Teresa Cypher aka T K CypherBuss said...

Hi Lorraine :-) I already posted this comment, but then didn't see it after I clicked "publish". I didn't notice a comment moderation popup either, so am posting again. lol...So if it appears twice, you will know why. I'd rather post twice than to have it not appear at all!

I am inclined to agree that the first line dialogue works. It begs the question, who is calling for her? With the additional information, we know that it is a he...and she is not happy about his presence. I like it, Loraine. :-)

In the first example, although a time of year is introduced, it lacks the unhappiness she feels at the unknown other person. And I felt as though she was indifferent to whomever was coming down the stairs.

Oh my...how much introspection into six lines. Humbling when we think how many six line pieces are in each novel. But, the first six lines are so important. :-)

Teresa Cypher aka T K CypherBuss said...

Ha! "Your comment will be visible after approval." :-) I see it this time!