What If? I.4,5,6 Uh oh, I think this is the beginning of the end

When I start doing multiples, it means I’m not doing them at all. But… well, maybe these early ones aren’t what I need.

What If I.4 Begin a Story with a Given First line

Exercise: Begin a story with the line, Where were you last night?

Objective: Start in media res. Last night already happened, if one character asks another the question, they are already two people on stage and the question can generate conflict, but it doesn’t have to be a line of dialogue.

ok, the obvious thing is to make it a spouse or parent scolding, so let’s do something else.

Where were you last night? I was at the cafe on Market Street, waiting for you until almost ten. Then I went into Gritty McDuff’s and had a beer, and wouldn’t you know, the bartender remembered me from when we went there a few weeks ago and sat in the corner booth kissing all night. He asked, “Where’s the other half?” and I shrugged and asked for a beer, light on tap. A guy at the bar paid for it and the bartender, he told me his name was Harry, gave me a look that said, don’t take it, but I was wounded and felt like playing it a little dangerous for once in my life, so I sat next to the guy and said, “Thanks” and he grabbed my thigh and said, “you’re very welcome” and slid his hand up a little higher. Harry put my mug down next to me and I twisted on the stool to shake of the guy’s hand.
And I’m bored with this story so I’m not going to bother with it. I’d probably do the parent scolding the child, actually. But I like the idea of looking at the first line to see who’s on set, how the conflict could be generated, I always have had trouble with this kind of thing and now I think I can analyze it a little better.  Still, who cares about it if its just an exercise.
Wat If I.5 – Person, Place and Song by Ron Carlson (no relation, don’t I wish)
Exercise: Start a story like this: The first time [NAME or I] heard [SONG TITLE BY SPECIFIC PERFORMER] [NAME/I] was down/up/over at [PLACE] and we were doing [ACTION].

The first timeI heard “My Boyfriend’s Back” by whatever-her-name-was was in the motel where we spent the summer we moved to Florida and my brother and I were leaving for the pool. He was 13 to my 8, so I followed him everywhere and he let me that summer. Our mom needed her rest so we tried to keep out of her way but we were allowed to go in the pool any time we wanted. I loved my swimming cap, a mass of daisies all over it, and Bruce

yuck.
I hate forced prompts.
See, when I read “music”, I think classical. I don’t know when I first heard anything. Probably on TV, except for Picutres at an Exhibition which I heard at school in 11th grade when Mr. Smith brought in the pianist to perform his own transcription for us. I wasn’t all that impressed, to be honest, but I liked the idea of the art gallery and every movement being a picture, so I bought the orchestral version later. And then my brother saw it in my room and said, “That’s an odd piece for you to know” and I told him about the pianist, and he got me the ELP rock version which was best of all, to tell the truth.

Well, nothing’s going to come out of this one. I understand Ron Carlson’s method, from his Ron Carlson Writes a Story book, put lots of stuff in the opening paragraph and you can use it all through the story. And that’s fine, but I can’t do it. I guess I’m not going to be taking any classes from him. all I can think of is stuff from the 50’s and I wasn’t around then, I wasn’t into anything ever, I’ve lived an incredibly boring life and maybe that’s my problem.
What If? I.6 – Pairs of beginning sentences
Write the first sentence of a story about a birth. Now write the first sentence about a death. Try other pairs, such as falling in love and vfiling for divorce. Try pairs that are not i opposition, such as spring and summer. then invent your own pairs.
The objective : to write succinct beginning sentence one that signals the essential “who” and “what” to come.

Birth: Five pounds, one ounce, just big enough to be normal.
Death: Not much changed that afternoon, except that Nora’s eyes closed and Brigitte was disappointed; she’d always heard that the eyes stay open when someone dies.
Falling in love/divorce – wow, I wrote that story, the anniversary one.
Love: I was looking for a place to hide, or at least gather myself for the rest of the evening, when I stumbled over him in the hallway between the kitchen and the bathroom.
Divorce: I ask him, “You dismiss my opinions, you hate my books and my music and my friends, you don’t care if I’m home or not, so just what is it, tell me, that you like about me?” and the silence goes on so long I have no choice but to pack.

Does anyone really write this way? They sit down and say, “I’m going to write a story” and just write the first sentence? Don’t they think, “I want to write a story about what happened yesterday, the way I wish it’d happened” or “I see this scene in my head and I want to write a story where it’s the climactic scene” or “I want to write a story about this guy, he’s a complete failure and can’t figure out where he went wrong since he used to have such potential but now he’s a lowlife.” I always thought it was the TV-version of a writer, to sit typing and type type type period end “I’ve finished my book!” Come on, you’ve finished a draft and then you go back and change it and then you decide to add something and then you have to rewrite the whole thing… you don’t just say, “I’m going to write 1000 words a day and at the end of the year I’ll have a huge novel!” No, you won’t, you’ll have 365,000 words, which might be the draft of a novel but it can’t possibly be a novel, can it?

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