Students Say What? · Teaching's in my DNA

First Lines and Openers

dancerA story is like a musical performance. Both the beginning and the ending must DELIVER. The reader should be pulled in and enticed–no, driven! –to turn pages.

So my second year students are working on that.

Below are their first lines and openers. This is the all-guys class. Did they do their job?

  • Outland

To Jaron, there was no better way to start his morning than flying 620 miles an hour through an asteroid field.

  • The Night of The Feral

Morgan cursed at his luck. Wouldn’t you know it. Cornered by a vampire hunter, stakes and silver-coated axes pounding at his door, on the one night of the year that The Feral could enter the city limits without being seen. Could his afterlife get any worse?

  • The Phantom Files

“…and as the bandits closed in, knives drawn and ready, Maria…”

November sighed. Three weeks she’d been stuck on this stupid section, and each idea she had for solving it never seemed to fit. She tried having Maria run away, but the heroine can’t keep running, can she? She tried having her fight back, but Maria hadn’t been much of a fighter in the past. She tried swimming, screaming, even bartering with the bandits, but nothing seemed to flow correctly.

“Mew,” a small tabby cat called from across the room.

  • If It Ain’t Broke

“Happy birthday to you!” everyone sings.

I look around at their faces: Siddell, Shaun, Amelia, and Luke. My wife, brother, sister-in-law, and best friend. The most important people in my life right now. Sometimes I can’t believe how lucky I am.

  • Baron’s War

“Chauncey!”

Hendrick frantically searched for his missing comrade. He made his way from hall to hall, weaving through Charleston Castle. Hendrick found Chauncey asleep in his quarters. He grabbed Chauncey by the collar, angrily hoisting him to his feet.

“Wake up, boy! Every Brigadier is to be on time.”

  • Another Three Hour Tour

“Fight! Fight! Fight!”

Logan could hear the chants as he entered the hall. “He had better not be doing this again,” he said to himself as he sprinted down the hall. Just last week, his best friend had been caught fighting on school property. He rounded a last corner and was greeted by the entire high school gathered in a fight circle. Logan heard some more details.

“Yo mama so fat, the government just assigned her a zip code!”

“Oh!” the crowd shouted.

“Well at least my mama is still on this planet. Last I checked yo mama is so fat that she is being used by NASA as a replacement space station!”

“OH!” the crowd yelled louder.

Want to read more? Oh, yes. Good job, guys.

12 thoughts on “First Lines and Openers

    1. These guys are headed to university next year. They’ll be thrilled when I pass on your comment to them tomorrow.

      The Yo Mama word war had us in stitches, oh yes. Right now we’re doing something truly terrible: I’ve printed out the first 15 pages of each guys’ story and we are going over them as a class, reading aloud around the table. There are six of them, and what they are learning is a lot.

      Since every man has his turn on the hot seat, morale has remained high. Shared suffering breeds camaraderie? Especially surprising is how they are able to see for themselves where words need to be cut to bring out the story … and the best lines of dialog. It’s like a sculptor chipping away unnecessary marble to reveal the statue within, I tell them. I’m more proud of them for taking crits well than anything. Because it’s hard to hear.

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      1. I adore writer’s workshop. Mine has to be non-fiction, as I teach AP Eng Language, but non-fiction can be narrative, too. Critique gives them pause at first, and teacher conferences are terrifying…but they realize (some sooner than others) that the feedback and conversation are where the learning is–crucial and desirable.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. This is where we learn … and getting past the wounded puppy “poor me” is a huge step in any writer’s development. The bonus is that these guys are bright, and they see how editing brings out the best of each story we look over.

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  1. I think I saw the Fat Mama Dozens battle on an old rerun of Good Times. JJ and Booker were going at it in the hallway of the projects. Maybe not. Fat woman insults get to sounding all the same after a while.

    Baron’s War had an interesting feel to it. And I would like to know if Maria tosses the cat at the vampire hunters.

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    1. Ha, forgot about Good Times! Fat lady insults are funny to high school guys who are athletes, as these guys are. When their own waistlines betray them, these jokes lose their appeal. Although they’re not ladies, so maybe not.

      For Martin Luther King day I show my 7th graders Remember the Titans, as it deals with racial integration from more of a human perspective, showing the struggle of everyone involved as they grow and change. Not sure, but these guys could be recalling the Fat Mama insults in the locker room scene.

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      1. We have a couple of new retro channels and Good Times is one of them. I’ll know the Rapture is near when they resurrect “What’s Happenin'” with Rerun and Rog. *sigh*

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        1. Puts me in mind of something that happened years ago at Grace Community Church in Southern California. One never knows, especially in a church situation, who works in the entertainment industry. The behind-the-scenes production people see it as a job and don’t splash it around. Anyway, it happened that a screenwriter met a guy at church, and was so taken with his name that he asked to buy it. Sure enough, legal paperwork and compensation took place, and he became the owner of … Steven Quincy Urkel. “Steve Urkel” as portrayed on Family Matters might have been a fictional character, but his name was not. Given by a fond mama, that was. And the rest is history.

          I relate this to students, reinforcing that “fame” is not so far out of reach as they think. Somebody has to write the novels for the next generation to read, as well as create TV shows and movies. Might as well be any one of them, I say.

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  2. I love all of these. Your students are very creative, and it’s obvious that they have been reading as well as writing. As a sci-fi/fantasy geek (we rewatched the 3 prequels of Star Wars this past weekend) I particularly liked The Night of the Feral. I’ve recently read The Mortal Instruments series, the Divergent books, and Angel Fall/World After. The Night of the Feral would fit right in with Angel Fall and World After. You may have a budding YA author there, Laura.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have several who want to be professional fiction writers, one of whom has published a book with Amazon’s Create Space. All of them are seniors, and this is our second year together. They are an exceptional group, both as students and as thinking followers of Christ. I will miss them when they move on.

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