By Eithne Cullen
It’s great to be starting the New Year with the theme of Beginnings And Endings, and my January page is, naturally, looking at beginnings.
Some of you may know I love a quiz. There’s a round I particularly like to show off in and that’s the opening lines of books. Have a go yourself:
- All children, except one, grow up.
- It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.
- It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.
In case you need the answers, they are: Peter Pan, Pride And Prejudice and 1984.
Opening lines of books and stories are so important; they grab the reader’s attention and keep them reading from the start. So, I thought I’d ask our talented Pen to Print writers to share some of their opening lines with us.
Firstly, I’m sharing the opening sentences of Sweethearts Of Ilford Lane from Farzana Hakim. Just by coincidence, they celebrate the New Year, so it’s a good place to share them here:
“Ten, nine, eight,” cheered the crowd, eager for the remaining seconds to move on as they danced and laughed their way into the New Year.
I observed with a cup of frothy chocolate and my feet clad cosily in fluffy socks. The BBC guy on the telly screamed, “Three, two, one,” and the flat screen became a canvas of colourful glitter and noise.
“Happy New Year…”
© Farzana Hakim, 2019
Connect with Farzana on X: @farzanahakim and Facebook: @farzanahakimauthor
The next openings are from Claire Buss, who not only sends her words but also a link to a sea shanty you can listen to:
He, or very possibly she, was known as The Rose Thief.
From The Rose Thief.
“We shouldn’t have left them,” muttered Kira as she looked out of the plane window.
From The Gaia Solution.
And something a little bit different… The Bone Thief opens with a sea shanty, which Claire recorded and put on YouTube:
© Claire Buss, 2023
You can connect with Claire on Instagram: @Grasshopper2407 or visit her website at: clairebuss.co.uk
Palak Tewary has recently completed her poetry book, The Stanzas Of Time. She’s sent two openings from her poems. If you’re interested in reading further, you can see how to get hold of the book yourself:
In the sanctuary of my room
I take it off, the facade that I have worn all day
I must adorn another one soon
Even to just go down the hallway
A Strange Collection
I collect hearts – broken hearts. In horror, you jump a mile from me and look at me aghast. Yes, it sounds awful, doesn’t it? It may be a trying tale to tell but tell I must. For this cannot be hidden, you know. I collect broken hearts.
© Palak Tewary, 2023
Connect with Palak on her website: www.palaktewary.com, on Twitter and Instagram: @palaktewary
The Stanzas Of Time is available free on Kindle Unlimited and can be purchased here: tinyurl.com/AmznTSOT
Mirabel Lavelle has shared two of her openings, one from 2022 and one from 2023:
Mrs Heughan’s Bakery
Steff hurried along from work to the local gastropub where, every Friday, she met Alistair to start their weekend. Alistair gave his usual big smile as he stood to greet her but behind those loch-blue eyes, Steff could sense something unsettling. Alistair handed Steff the small menu card, still deciding which dish to feast on. “They’ve got some belters on the Friday specials; take a look.”
© Mirabel Lavelle, 2022
Suzanna walked along the grassy expanse at the top of the hill. The tide below was washing inland, bringing with it clumps of tangled seaweed and sea debris. Here, she attempted to unravel her worries and let the North wind blow them away.
Suzanna loved collecting knick knacks and immortalising them in her artwork. She peered over her shades, as a tiny sparkle caught her eye. It was a flat piece of polished sea glass. She squatted and picked up the turquoise coloured nugget. It felt as smooth as her granddaughter’s skin. She got up, and popped it in her pocket. A keeper.
© Mirabel Lavelle, 2023
Connect with Mirabel on Instagram: @WritebyMirabel and on Facebook: Mir JP Car-1X
I also had a message from writers Lili and Irina, sharing the first lines of their three rhyming children’s books:
From Arty’s Portrait:
The day was bright, the sun was high,
When Turtle Arty heard a clumsy, “Hi.”
From Arty’s Christmas Tree:
“Fa-la-la-la,” Arty sang with cheer.
“It’s a fine day to craft – Christmas is near.”
From Arty’s Eastbrookend Adventures:
Turtle Arty was drawing a portrait of a bee
When a message arrived. What can it be?
They tell me: “Our books are available on our website: booksbymile.co.uk. At the moment, only the third book is available at Eastbrookend Tea Room.”
Connect with them on Facebook and Instagram: @booksbymile
Mother Of Floods, our Editor, Madeleine White’s book, begins like this:
Baba John sat in his one room, wrapped in the orange and saffron robes of his calling. Despite his long white beard and mane of hair, he had a strong, healthy physique that belied the many decades he had spent in Gangotri. When he had moved into his guru’s hut nearly 70 years ago, it had been virtually inaccessible. Not any more, though. These days, it seemed as if everyone wanted to come here, and corresponding numbers of roads and houses had been built.
© Madeleine F White, 2020
Connect with Madeleine on X, Threads and Instagram: @madeleinefwhite
Mary L Walsh has shared the opening lines from Detective Armando Ramirez And The Iberico Ham Murder. It’s a gripping whodunit, so an exciting opening, for sure:
In her final seconds, as she felt her body fly free of the balcony and plummet to the alley below; the killer’s flint-like face was reflected in Masie Bright’s eyes. She lay, her body awaiting discovery in the shaded, whitewashed, cobbled backstreet. Soon insects and vermin would begin their work of clearing the debris.
© Mary L Walsh, 2022
Connect with Mary on Instagram: @marelwa60 and on X: @MaryWal11526731
Lucy Kaufman writes in many styles and many genres. I thought I’d share some of her drama writing, so here are two openings:
This is the first line of her audio drama series The Victoria Files:
“You don’t forget someone like her in a hurry.”
And the first line of dialogue from her (and her brother’s, co-written) TV comedy-drama series Jokers:
Tony Blackburn soundalike: …I have a letter here from Joan of Canvey Island in Essex, who was most incensed the other morning when I said the people of Canvey Island have webbed feet.
This is the first line of Lucy’s short play retelling of Jane Austen’s Emma:
AUSTEN: (raising a glass to EMMA) Emma Woodhouse: handsome, clever and rich, with comfortable home and happy disposition, has lived nearly 21 years in the world with very little to vex her… And has all the time in the bloody world to match-make her ex-governess with Mr Weston.
© Lucy Kaufman, 2023
Connect with Lucy on X:@lucykaufman_ and on Instagram: @kaufmanlucy
Here’s a little more poetry, from Danny Fenn, once again getting us interested in where the poem will lead us:
What Type Of Bridge
We will start with what we know
We know that one plus one equals two
Unless your one is negative
In which case the answer will be zero
So your addition must be positive if you want the sum total to be more than what you started with
There’s an eye on my middle finger looking back at me
Made from scabs of blisters, one, two and three
I always thought that one’s third eye would appear upon one’s head
For me it seems it has appeared upon my hand instead
I am bound by shackles brother to brother.
I am a detainee of loyalties once professed.
I am chained to my oaths of yesterday.
I am a prisoner of allegiances confessed
© Danny Fenn (the boleyn poet), 2023
Connect with Danny on Facebook: danny.fenn.10 and on Instagram: @danny.fenn.10
Finally, I’d like to leave you with a couple of my own openings. Here’s the start of The Ogress Of Reading:
Chapter One: The evidence – April 1896
There was only one way to be sure he’d catch her: if she had any hint that the police were closing in, he knew she’d bolt. It was a pattern; she’d had so many changes of name and changes of address it had, in the past, kept the police one step behind. “This time, this time…” Anderson told himself. They had one piece of evidence to launch their case but needed to catch her in her home to secure a conviction.
Here’s the opening of Never Not In My Thoughts:
It was a summer evening; the light strong and bright, with still some time till it grew dark. Martin leaned over the edge of the bath, shirt sleeves rolled up high as he plunged his arms into the water. He was shampooing the children’s hair, playing that game where their hair piled up like pointed shampoo hats and they had beards of soapy foam. They looked like garden gnomes and squealed with delight as they looked at their reflections in the mirror. He made them laugh with suggestions of gnome names for them.
© Eithne Cullen, 2018
Both my books are available on Amazon if you want to read more. Connect with me on X: @eithne_cullen and on Instagram: @eithnecullen57
Let’s hope some of the beginnings have inspired you to look a little further into the writing I’ve shared, or to pick up a book with an interesting opening for yourself. And, of course, if you’re inspired to start writing, don’t forget you can submit to peotoprint.org.
Wishing you all a great 2024!
Issue 19 of Write On! is available to read online here.
You can hear great new ideas, creative work and writing tips on Write On! Audio. Find us on all major podcast platforms, including Apple and Google Podcasts and Spotify. Type Pen to Print into your browser and look for our logo or find us on Spotify.
If you or someone you know has been affected by issues covered in our pages, please see the relevant link below for information, advice and support:
Opening lines of books and stories are so important; they grab the reader’s attention and keep them reading from the start.