ACW

ACW

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

There's a Cello on my Table, by Fiona Lloyd


There’s a cello on my kitchen table…

Well, it worked, didn’t it? A strong opening sentence that drew you in – otherwise, you wouldn’t have read this far. A good first line sparks off all sorts of questions in our heads and makes us want to find out more.

In writing terms, this is known as a hook: something that will grab the reader’s attention and motivate them to keep reading. It’s a concept that’s equally relevant to both fiction and non-fiction, and for short and long pieces. Most writing courses emphasise the importance of having a strong first line (which is probably why they’re often the hardest to get right).

A good first sentence whets our appetite for the rest of the story. It conveys information about the style of the book, but only enough to entice us further in. However, they can also be used to inspire our writing.

A few months ago, our local ACW group had a workshop on short-story writing. Being a practical bunch, we spent part of the day writing our own pieces based on one of three prompts. By far the most popular of these was the one that asked us to write in response to a given first line: Raymond had never liked Blackpool. In our feedback session, we discovered all sorts of bizarre reasons as to why the unfortunate Raymond had taken against Blackpool with such vehemence.

The best thing about this exercise was that it made us ask questions. Who was Raymond? Why did he hate Blackpool so much? Had he had a bad experience there, or was it blind prejudice? Once we started interrogating ourselves, the words flowed.

So may I make a suggestion? Next time your writing feels stuck in a rut, pick a starting sentence and see where it leads. You can make up your own opening line, or borrow one from somewhere else – try looking here for inspiration. 

And for those of you who were wondering about that cello, the answer is I brought it home from work because it needed repairing…but I’m sure you can think of a much better story!




Fiona Lloyd works part-time as a music teacher, and serves on the worship leading team at her local church. She enjoys writing short stories, and is working on her first novel. Fiona self-published a violin tutor book in 2013, and blogs at www.fjlloyd.wordpress.com. She is married with three grown-up children. Fiona is ACW's membership secretary.

14 comments:

  1. This made me think about the first lines in my books. Could do better is probably what I think of my effort but maybe experience helps.

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    1. I think they're really tricky to get right - and what appeals to one person can be a complete turn-off for others. Thanks for reading.

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  2. A cello would not fit on my kitchen table! Sue

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    1. It was only a very small cello, Sue - but I like the way you picked up extra information from the sentence!

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  3. Great post. And I loved the link to the famous first lines. I will use that! It's a good idea for an ACW writing group activity, too ... *files it away*

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    1. I'll send you my bill later...

      Thanks for reading.

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  4. Love it! I'm thinking of reasons why Raymond might not like Blackpool.... he drives a day trip bus from Manchester and finds the crowds of holidaymakers and day-trippers always get in his way when he tries to drive down the seafront to see the illuminations. And the coach-park is so small that it's very hard to park and the attendant has a power complex and insists on perfect diagonal parking for the buses, so he feels stressed every time he sees that he's on the Blackpool trip. And he's never liked candy floss. And then one day everything changes... :-)

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    1. That parking attendant sounds too much like me!- but now I want to know what happens next. Thanks, Helen.

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  5. Great post Fiona. Am wondering myself why Raymond doesn't like Blackpool! :)

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    1. Our group came up with about seven different explanations - but I'm sure there's room for some more!

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  6. Great post Fiona.First lines are so important.Must rethink mine :)

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  7. Thanks for reading, Deborah. xx

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  8. Great hook! When I saw the picture I thought it must be your "violon d'Ingres"!

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