(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘opening lines

“The last thing one discovers in composing a work is what to put first”*…


A bringing together of beloved belles lettres, this chart diagrams 25 famous opening lines from revered works of fiction according to the dictates of the classic Reed-Kellogg system. From Cervantes to Faulkner to Pynchon, each sentence has been painstakingly curated and diagrammed by PCL’s research team, parsing classical prose by parts of speech and offering a partitioned, color-coded picto-grammatical representation of some of the most famous first words in literary history. Whether you’re a book buff, an English teacher, or a hard-line grammarian, this diagrammatical dissertation has something for the aesthete in all of us…

Explore “A Diagrammatical Dissertation on Opening Lines of Notable Novels” at Pop Chart Lab.

* Blaise Pascal


As we analyze our way to an appreciation of the classics, we might recall that it was on this date in 1952 that Ernest Hemingway completed his short novel The Old Man and the Sea. He believed it to be the best writing he had ever done. The critics agreed: the book won the Pulitzer Prize in 1953, and became one of his bestselling works.


Written by (Roughly) Daily

March 4, 2014 at 1:01 am

“There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are”*…


There are all sorts of theories and ideas about what constitutes a good opening line. It’s tricky thing, and tough to talk about because I don’t think conceptually while I work on a first draft — I just write. To get scientific about it is a little like trying to catch moonbeams in a jar.

But there’s one thing I’m sure about. An opening line should invite the reader to begin the story. It should say: Listen. Come in here. You want to know about this….

When I’m starting a book, I compose in bed before I go to sleep. I will lie there in the dark and think. I’ll try to write a paragraph. An opening paragraph. And over a period of weeks and months and even years, I’ll word and reword it until I’m happy with what I’ve got. If I can get that first paragraph right, I’ll know I can do the book…

– Stephen King (click here for full interview)

Find inspiration– or just enjoyment– at Kick Ass Ledes (“Your Daily Fix of Damn Good Opening Lines”).

Readers can follow KAL on Twitter… and noticing the the skew there toward long-form non-fiction and short stories, can further explore the implications of Mr. King’s advice in other, more novel-centric lists (e.g., here).

* W. Somerset Maugham


As we sharpen our pencils, we might send carefully-composed birthday greetings to Chloe Ardelia Wofford; she was born on this date in 1931.  A convert to catholicism at age 12, she took the baptismal name “Anthony,” which family and friends shortened to “Toni”; then at age 27, she married George Morrison…. so it was as Toni Morrison that she published her first novel, The Bluest Eye, in 1970.  She went on to write 9 more novels (including Beloved and Song of Solomon), a number of non-fiction books, a pair of plays, a host of essays, and an opera libretto– all while serving as a university professor at Howard, SUNY, Rutgers, and now Princeton.  She won the Pulitzer Prize in 1988 for Beloved, the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1993, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012.

They shoot the white girl first.

– Toni Morrison, (the first line of) Paradise


Written by (Roughly) Daily

February 18, 2014 at 1:01 am

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