First Lines

I have this coffee cup that my mother sent me, that has all these first lines from the world’s great novels. You know, “Call me Ishmael” and all that sort of stuff. I sent out two more queries for The Peaceful and Just yesterday and that coffee cup has me thinking. Do I need a better first line? I mean, I have to catch the attention of the agent right away. On that coffee cup, the first lines are definitely meaningful. they are definitely attention-getters. The word “spiteful” is used the most-it’s in two of them. Spiteful is a good word.

Here’s my first line:

“The scientist pressed the button which operated a server beneath the panel of the glassed chamber before him.”

Now this is from the prologue that I wrote after I finished the book, and it’s important because it describes Niisteen building the kapalas, the portals that allow travel between the wards, and also the mistral that he will eventually give to Ullane, a weapon that allows the companions to compete with the Teilarata. But as a first line, I’ve got to admit, it kind of sucks. I have to THINK about it. I have to WORK on it.

I think I need a stanza from the Talevala for The Silent and Brave. I love the first stanza from The Peaceful and Just: 

Empty now the pavement passes/Laid in place by drays and draughtsmen/Steel girded to reave the heavens/Empty now forlorn forgotten

I really tried to use the phonetic style and rhythm of the Kalevala for that stanza. It’s so gutteral and chanty. I also love that I used the word “empty” twice, since my matter transporters are called empties. Then I tried to continue the poem for two more stanzas and they just don’t work as well. Maybe instead I can do a single stanza for each book in the quartet and have them be more meaningful that way. The words I was working with last night were:

Bring them now to walk on water/ . . . twin boys without a father/ . . . world frozen . . . / . . . speech verboten . . .

I’ll keep going with it and see where I end up.


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