You might not know this, but first lines are really important, first lines in writing specially. I recently had an opportunity to expound on this at a Language Dept. workshop at school.
We started by talking about how skillful writing hacks your brain so that you might not know your brain has been hacked. We showed a few examples of great first sentences -of course, there are many, many more. (Try to figure out the author and book, answers below – don’t cheat!). (We played a similar game on this blog on my post about Russian Literature, check it out here.)
- “Here is a small fact: You are going to die.”
- “En un lugar de la Mancha, de cuyo nombre no quiero acordarme, no ha mucho tiempo que vivía un hidalgo de los de lanza en astillero, adarga antigua, rocín flaco y galgo corredor.”
- “Happy families are all alike; unhappy families are all unhappy in their own way.”
- “Muchos años después, frente al pelotón de fusilamiento, el coronel Aureliano Buendía había de recordar aquella tarde remota en que su padre lo llevó a conocer el hielo.”
- “He was an old man who fished alone in a skiff in the Gulf Stream and he had gone eighty-four days now without taking a fish.”
- “Lees ese anuncio: una oferta de esa naturaleza no se hace todos los días.”
- “Call me Ishmael.”
We had a good time going over those sentences and what made them good first sentences. Then we looked at how to write good sentences in general and especially for academic writing. The hands-on part of the workshop involved the students writing a sentence each until we had a first paragraph!
We had a good time and I hope the students left understanding the importance of first sentences!
- The Book Thief. Markus Zusak
- Don Quijote de la Mancha, Miguel de Cervantes
- Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy
- Cien años de soledad, Gabriel García Márquez
- The Old Man and the Sea, Ernest Hemingway
- Aura, Carlos Fuentes
- Moby Dick. Herman Melville