Wednesday, November 30, 2016

First Sentences In (Fan)Fiction the 16th

Good lines from mini-reviews edition!  Usually, I take First Sentences posts from semi-recent Fandom Classics, and mix good, bad, and "fine" firsts together without much concern.  Today, we're doing something different: I'm going back through some of the more recent mini-reviews, and highlighting some first sentences that I thought were particularly effective, for several very different reasons.  As such, there's also a different format today: rather than a rating, I'll give the line, and some thoughts on what makes it effective.  Click down below the break for some firsts!

Cross Your I's and Dot Your T's, by Garbo (Round 161)

The first line:  It was a nice spring morning in Equestria. The sun was shining, the birds were chirping, and all that jazz.

Why it's good:  I commented that I liked this first line in the mini-review I wrote for this fic, and it's a good place to start today.  This is a low degree of difficulty for a good first line, so to speak; it's just poking a bit of fun at a well-worn trope, after all.  But where it shines is in immediately setting exactly the tone that this self-aware but not 4th-wall-breaking comedy strives for.  The rest of the story may not live up to that, but the first sentence delivers, for its part.

Promised Landby Obselescence (Round 158)

The first line:  Twilight Sparkle was dying.

Why it's good:  Do I really have to explain how hook-y this is?  In four words, it hits you with a major revelation which basically demands that you keep reading.  Like with the first fic, it's not the most technically difficult of openings, but its highly effective at grabbing a reader nevertheless.  One thing that's worth noting here, though, is that part of what makes it effective is that it meshes so smoothly with the tone of the rest of the story--in other words, it properly prepares the reader for the story they're about to take in.  Lots of stories start with these kind of hooks, but those hooks work best in situations like this, where they both represent a major story point and set the mood (and set up the reader) appropriately.

Cursed Be He That Moves My Bones, by Lucky Dreams (Round 157)

The first line:  It was half past bedtime, but the feel of midnight had arrived early: that tremblesome feeling when the world lay silent, and monsters lurked beneath the hospital bed.

Why it's good:  This mixes the general with the specific in a pleasingly evocative way, and uses nonstandard verbiage ("tremblesome") to good effect.  In a single sentence, it immediately creates not a vivid image, but a vivid feeling--a sense of what that moment is like, rather than of the specifics of the space and time.  Couple that with the attention-catching shift to specifics at the end, and this is a beginning I think very highly of.

Final Draft, by Post Script (Round 150)

The first line:  I will never forget the name of my creator. It doesn't exactly roll off the tongue, but it reflected the person he was long ago; xXImmortalCloudXx.

Why it's good:  I often talk about (and already have, in this post!) using a first sentence to set the tone of your story.  That's a good thing to do, no doubt... but there's also value in creating tonal dissonance.  This is not the same as misrepresenting the tone of your story, mind: it's about creating a sense of incongruity between tone and content.  Here, the first line directly contrasts a wistful and (if one read the story's tag) sad tone with the kind of name most often associated with pre-teens playing Call of Duty.  It's funny, but not in a way that leads the reader to expect that they're about to read a comedy, and that's a crucial distinction: this kind of dissonance is a highly effective tool for garnering a reader's interest.

Numberography, by ph00tbag (Round 147)

The first line:  A small cottage floated by the incomplete Canterlot Castle, lazily rotating, long abandoned by its former occupants. Construction on the castle had been halted indefinitely due to a tendency for the mortar to come to life and eat the bricks.

Why it's good:  Because you know exactly when this story is set only a few dozen words in, without the story having to say so.  This is a classic example of a place were showing is more effective than telling; by creating an unexpected scene which is nevertheless easily parsed (both literally and in terms of its implications), the reader is invited into the story in a way which something like "It was during Discord's reign" simply wouldn't.

Arcadia, by Blueshift (Round 143)

The first line:  Once upon a time, long ago in an impossible dream of history, there was a land called Arcadia.

Why it's good:  I'll make no bones about it: I'm in love with the phrase "an impossible dream of history."  It's doubly strong in context, reinforcing the themes which the classic "once upon a time" opening immediately calls upon.  This is a story which doubles down on its mood before it's even gotten as far as a proper noun, and does so in a lyrical, beguiling manner.

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