I recently read a post about Stephen King in The Atlantic telling how he spends months or even years crafting that most important opening sentence: Writing Opening Sentences. This got me thinking about my own craft. I don't spend as much time on the opening sentence as I do on where I choose to enter a story--the story door. Where you come into a story, can make or break your story for the reader.
In the epic poetry I studied as a literature major in college, the rule is to start in the midst of things. Never, ever start at the beginning. This was one of the first things I learned on my journey to becoming a professional writer. I soon discovered, most great works follow this age-old rule. Star Wars starts in the midst of a battle. The Godfather starts in the midst of a wedding. Memento starts in the midst of a chase... or am I chasing him (you have to know the movie to get that one).
Some stories, however, start with what we in show biz call "a handle." In short, a handle is something you tag on, but it's not needed. It's nice to have a handle on that pot because it helps when picking it up while hot... but you don't actually need it.
I chose a long, colorful handle, or preamble, to set my latest project, The Memory Giver in motion. I got the idea from Stephen King, who often creates a folksy style before getting to the meat of things. Yet, I decide to drop the handle, in fact, I dropped the entire opening, because I felt it took too long to get the story going. Some of my favorite authors are quite good at using them. I, however, felt it slowed me down, and I have an overwhelming fear of losing readers. So, I dropped the handle/preamble for a more traditional (EVL) type opening. This afternoon, I came across the original opening and thought, hey, I like this opening. So, I thought I'd share it with you. Here goes:
It Started With A Curveball
The curveball is one of the greatest inventions on God’s green earth. Watching a perfectly thrown curveball twisting through the air in mind-bending boomerang-like fashion is akin to watching one of the world’s, great natural wonders. It’s like coming upon the Grand Canyon. Look at that. Why’s it there—who knows? Just sit back and enjoy it.
Fred Goldsmith claimed he was the first to throw a curveball on a sweltering summer day in August of 1870 at Capitoline Grounds in Brooklyn. He called it his skewball. Drove the batters nuts. Of course, around the same time, Candy Cummings claims to have invented it as well. Don’t ask. Just sit back and enjoy it.
At the height of its popularity the curveball entered the lexicon as a metaphor as in Oop, you just threw me a curveball, meaning, you just presented me with something I did not see coming… which leads me to our story. It begins, with the throwing of a curveball—not a real curveball—we’ll leave those for the spaghetti-armed pitchers. Our story begins with a metaphoric curveball.
On of June 15th 1986, just past midnight, Phoebe McKenzie entered the bedroom of her daughter, Allison. Pooh Bear's nightlite gave off a gentle glow, making the room seem warm and cozy. Phoebe looks down on her daughter, so peaceful in sleep, and knows this may be the last peace the child has for quite some time. She kneels and shakes the girl gently. “Shh. Get your brother up. We’re leaving.”
There you have it. I hope you enjoyed it. You will never see that opening in print. It turned out be a two day exercise for me/us. No, it wasn't time wasted. I get something out of everything I write--even the worst stuff. I think it's pretty good. Still, you'll never see it in print. Just here. I'd like to hear what you think. Like it or hate it, let me know.
One reason I wanted to share the opening with you is to use it as a preamble (story door) to my... I guess I should say our latest project. As I said earlier, it's called The Memory Giver. It's a horror/Thriller I'm currently writing with my horror writing alter ego, Sal Conte. If you follow either of us on Twitter (@Evanlowe, @SalConte1) we'll both be talking about it in the weeks leading up to its debut. The Memory Giver will be available for FREE in chapter-by-chapter installments several months before it goes on sale. If you'd like to know more about when you can start reading, stay tuned. The first chapter should be available in a month or so. Thanks for your time.
Keep Reading/Keep Writing!