Tuesday, May 27, 2008

First Sentences

We’re told that first sentences are supposed to hook the reader. In a short story, especially in flash, the first sentence is critical. I’ve been going through some of the short story anthologies I love and looking at the first sentences of some of my favorite writers. I’m not trying to make a statement or anything. I just found this an interesting exercise. I can see the differences in style just by looking at the different sizes of the sentences. I would have included Henry James or Garcia-Marquez, but I didn’t want to make this entry too long. Here are some of the ones I looked at:

Raymond Carver:

In the kitchen, he poured another drink an dlooked at the bedroom suite in his front yard.

A man without hands came to the door to sell me a photograph of my house.

Vera’s car was there, no others, and Burt gave thanks for that.

John Cheever:

There is no sense in looking for trouble, but in any big, true picture of the city where we all live, there is surely room for one more word on the diehards, the hangers-on, the people who never got along and who never gave up, the insatiables that we have all known at one time or another.

You may have seen my mother waltzing on ice skates in Rockefeller Center.

The last time I saw my father was in Grand Central Station.

Mary Gaitskill

When he saw her on the way to work in the morning, he ignored her, even though he hadn’t seen her for four years.

Stephanie wasn’t a “professional lady” exactly; tricking was just something she slipped into, once a year or so, when she was feeling particularly revolted by clerical work, or when she couldn’t pay her bills.

The typing and secretarial class was held in a little basement room in the Business Building of the local community college.

Jhumpa Lahiri:

The noticed informed them that it was a temporary matter: for five days their electricity would be cut off for one hour, beginning at eight P.M.

Eliot had been going to Mrs. Sen’s for nearly a month, ever since school started in September.

They discovered the first one in a cupboard above the stove, beside an unopened bottle of malt vinegar.

No comments: