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%$#@!^*&ion as a Writing #$@!
Anyway, I was working along and then another idea just shoved its way to the front of my brain. Don't worry. I've given up hope that my ideas will have manners one day, since they're such heathens. But I understood why it had decided to show up now, because last night I had been perusing The Fire in Fiction, by Donald Maass. He is a superstar when it comes to making the writing craft not only easily understood, but easy to put into practice.
Here's what snagged my attention:
"What about your first and last lines? Suppose you did a first line/last line draft, doing nothing but honing the bookends of every scene in your manuscript. Would those little changes give your story a bigger and more effective shape?"
In my manuscripts, I've worked to make sure the first line grabs the reader's attention and leads them to the next line, and then the next, kind of like handing off the baton in a relay race. Each sentence is supposed to do its part to keep the momentum going, linking to the one behind it, and the one ahead of it.
I've also tried to punch up the last line, with the goal to make it irresistible, so the reader won't set the book down at the end of a scene or chapter. If they do, I hope it's because they kept reading until Mr. Sandman cold-cocked them. When their snoring finally wakes them up, they had better grab that book and immediately turn the page.
Mr. Maass describes the first/last sentences as bookends, which makes sense, because you want the stuff in between those two sentences to be logically connected, from beginning to end. If they're NOT, then perhaps the last line needs to show up SOONER, or the first line needs to show up LATER.
However, being the contrarian I am, I want to focus on how the last line leads into the first line. That is an important link, because the last line is setting up the expectation, so the first line had better deliver.
Okay, I'll be brave and throw out a couple last/first lines for public consumption. I'm not saying I've necessarily ACHIEVED the goal of setup and delivery, but I'm trying to keep it in mind as I write and revise.
This is from I Do. . .or Die, my romantic comedy:
Last: I opened the bathroom door, weak-kneed with relief at how I'd just dodged a figurative bullet--to see the barrel of a gun inches from my nose.
First: My hands flew up into the air, like I'd just walked into a stickup.
And here's a last/first combo from a manuscript I'm revising, called Bad Sex Karma. The poor heroine has been dumped by her boyfriend, at a restaurant, on their anniversary, and after falling apart in the bathroom, she decides to come back out to exact some revenge.
(Mmm. Both of these snippets are in bathrooms. What a curious coincidence.)
Last: I jumped up and grabbed the door handle with such determination, I nearly yanked the door off its hinges.
First: I savagely bit off a piece of bread, wishing my teeth were tearing into Bobo's black heart instead.
So do we have some others willing to demonstrate their last/first lines? Or how about some last/first lines that you like in a book you're enjoying now? If not, I've socked away some potential topics for tangents we can follow instead!