Doug Bruns

False Starts and Other Notions.

In Writing on October 30, 2010 at 12:29 pm

A friend visited last night, a writer friend. He was telling me about the work practice of a well-known American man of letters, a novelist and poet, with whom my friend is particularly close. “He has everything thought out before he even starts,” he told me. I was green with envy. The little bit of fiction I have written began with an opening sentence and what followed was the anthesis of the well-conceived plot line. The opening sentence is the kick-off to the game and I never made it to half-time.

Here are a few samples, opening lines to a few of my failed stories:

“Elder Stone and Elder Harris visited Dave Burns and asked if he had a relationship with God.”

“He packed as light as he ever had packed.”

“He lay looking skyward.”

“He wondered about what Julie said, that he lived large, and how it fed his appetite to live larger still.”

“Anymore it took work to get into a good mood.”

That Anne came to live in Chile after reading Chatwin is not unusual.”

“I have been photographing seriously for several years and find it to be a convenient way to avoid writing.”

“A woman sat alone.”

Probably, upon reflection, it’s just as well they died the quiet death they did. It’s not only fiction that fails to construct itself properly. My non-fiction, the workshop where I spend most of my time, is also a meandering and stitching together of notions and themes. I was asked recently about this, about what I write about specifically. I’ve spent a little time thinking about this question and put together a proper and meandering response. You can read the essay, What Am I Doing Here? at The Nervous Breakdown.

Thanks for stopping in!

  1. Planning ahead is one thing, but sometimes spontanious is just as important. Maybe in the scope of great writers, yours are not the best first sentences, but who’s to say that is true? Some might go by the wayside, while others may at some point spark a new idea. It’s all perspective.

    I recommend a book I am reading at this moment that takes parts of books and breaks them down. ‘Reading like a writer : a guide for people who love books and for those who want to write them’ By Francine Prose. One section is just on sentences, and sometimes the first sentence of a book. Are these all great? Possibly, but who’s to say someone not mentioned in the book are bad? It’s all in the perspective of the reader.

    • K – Thanks for stopping in and the comment. I appreciate your thoughts. I have Prose’s book on the shelf, read it about five years ago. It would be good to re-visit it. A similar book, Annie Dillard’s The Writing Life, is a favorite of mine you might appreciate. Thanks for reading.

  2. Thank you so much for the book suggestion. I have ordered it from the library so I am quite looking forward to reading it.

    And you are welcome on the stopping by. I enjoy what you have to say.

I welcome your comments. Thanks for reading.

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