Opening Lines

I used to want to be an author. I used to read avidly, literally hundreds of books a year. And I wrote, and wrote. But this was way back in my teens and early 20’s, now I’m 36 it’s been 15 years since I wrote regularly and over 10 years since I wrote anything at all. But inspired by the Children’s Writer blog and behind-the-scenes writing comments from (too many to mention) picture book authors and illustrators on Twitter, I thought I might revisit a story that’s been in my head all that time and write it for my girls…

My aspirations to be an author have faded over time, and I don’t have the patience to really write at this stage in my life but I thought I could manage a short story just for my girls. I hoped to be able to pull the threads of my ideas together, put the words in some sort of order and sort out the ending so it worked. Ideas are easy, writing is the hard part!

With that in mind, I started to think of the opening sentence(s). Perhaps just writing the story down first would be the best idea, but it’s been in my head for so long I thought I’d start at the beginning. Fiction Fridays have taught me that the first sentence can really sell a book to the reader. The story is a non-traditional fairy tale, so I looked for inspiration:

“Once upon a time there lived a King and a Queen who weren’t very good at it.” The Tough Princess (Waddell & Benson)

“Once there was a Dragon who was convinced he was TOTALLY TERRIFYING.” The Totally Terrifying Three (Oram & Melling)

“Once upon a Tuesday the king was in a hurry as usual.” The Kiss That Missed (Melling)

“Once upon a time, there was a deep, dark forest, where monstrous trees groaned, terrible beasties moaned and wiggly woos waited to tickle your toes.” Sir Charlie Stinky Socks and the Really Big Adventure (Stephenson)

“The trouble with Dragons is… Dragons make Dragons and they make some more till there are wall-to-wall Dragons making Dragons galore.” The Trouble With Dragons (Gliori)

“Long, and long ago, when Oberon was king of the fairies, there reigned over the fair country of Phantasmorania a monarch who had six beautiful daughters.” The Ordinary Princess (Kaye)

The Ordinary Princess isn’t a picture book. It is however a perfect fairy tale. I think it’s the book I want to write. Except it was already written over 30 years ago! It definitely deserves its own post.

After looking at the inspiration, I thought about the opening lines for “my” story. Hmmm, maybe I’ll think about writing again in another ten years… 🙂

9 responses to “Opening Lines

  1. You should just go for it. You understand children’s fiction better than most, I think you’ve got a great book in you. There can be no better motivation than wanting to write a book for your own children. That’s what got me going on my own project. I wouldn’t worry too much about the opening line…… Sit down and just start writing, get the story down and then come back to the beginning. My stories have been written for a good couple of years but I’m still tinkering with the intros. Good luck, believe in yourself and reserve me a copy….. 🙂

  2. Just to echo what @homedad said – just start writing! I write poems rather than ‘stories’ as such (although many of my poems are stories in verse), but I often have the middle and end written way before the beginning. And if you find a style and genre you’re comfortable with, you’ll probably find that a lot of what you write basically just writes itself. Sometimes I have a problem telling the poems in my head to shut up!

  3. This is almost word for word MY story too. Uncanny! That’s inspirational, thanks 🙂

    • You should definitely take the great advice above. I think you are a writer if you write and write, and you know how to write if you read and read! I have my reasons (er, excuses…) why I’m not writing but I think anyone who wants to write should just write 🙂

  4. I agree with these comments completely! It’s one of those top-of-the-diving-board moments, looking down: just come on in – the water’s warm!
    (btw I’m very jealous of you saying ‘ideas are easy, writing is the hard part’: I find ideas an absolute nightmare and have about half an idea every two years… I think this means you’re a natural!)

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