First Lines

Just a quick post today, as I hurry out the door to conduct my very last story-writing workshop at Chanhassen Elementary. But I wanted to share with you just a tiny bit of what these kids are doing.

I like to start my residencies with a workshop on First Lines. I do this for a number of reasons – firstly, because it’s a very non-threatening place to start for the possibly-reluctant writer. (“Hey!” I tell them. “We’re not writing full stories yet. Just a sentence. The first sentence of a story that you would like to read someday.” See how tricky I am? And see how I educate these children in the fine art of Self-Delusion, so necessary for a life built on fictions and lies.) Secondly, because it is the first line that sparks our love in stories. It is the first line that draws us in. It’s the first line that knocks us out of balance and forces us forward in our search for equilibrium.

The first line matters.

So I put the kids to work. And holy heck, do they ever produce. And they produce material that is so much richer so much more authentic than any worksheet or teaching aid that I could produce. This, of course, allows me to be lazy, which I appreciate.

Here are some of their first lines:

-It was never my intention to rule the world. I didn’t even want to rule my own town. But now I’m stuck with it.

– It is coming. Fast and faster than I could run.

-When I woke up, I was in jail.

– Nobody knows that I’m an alien.

– My mother is a dancer. My father is a dance. I have been dancing since before I was born.

– Do you know what an ordinary Saturday is like? Well lucky for you, because I don’t.

– He heard the hunters getting closer. He checked his watch. “Perfect timing,” he said.

– In the darkness, the white willows shone like ghosts and the moon shone like a shield.

YOU GUYS. These kids are amazing, and I will miss them.

2 thoughts on “First Lines

  1. The ‘dance’ line makes me tingle. Extraordinary.

    Most of the good ones up there are highly tropic. That’s understandable, expected, and totally forgivable from undeveloped writers as long as it’s well executed (implied by “the good ones” 😉 ). The one about dance stands out; it’s simultaneously opening a conversation, a story, and a poem. I’d call off sick tomorrow to read the rest of that tonight.

  2. Indeed. Mostly, what amazes me is that these were written by Fourth graders – and many of these kids were nervous about a week-long fiction intensive because they thought it would be too hard.

    The fact is that we are hard-wired for storytelling. These kids are just doing what human beings have been doing since we first learned to talk: they’re spinning yarns. And they were really good at it. 🙂

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