Old 07-25-2014, 02:58 PM   #1
JAMESBJOHNSON
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Get To The Point?

I wont suffer writers who fill first pages with tangential points and loose associations, and take forever to get to some kind of point. The best writers hit you between the eyes within a few sentences.

"It was about eleven o’clock in the morning, mid October, with the sun not shining and a look of hard wet rain in the clearness of the foothills. I was wearing my powder-blue suit, with dark blue shirt, tie and display handkerchief, black brogues, black wool socks with dark blue clocks on them. I was neat, clean, shaved and sober, and I didn’t care who knew it. I was everything the well-dressed private detective ought to be. I was calling on four million dollars." THE BIG SLEEP by Raymond Chandler

"He was an old man who fished alone in a skiff in the Gulf Stream and he had gone eighty-four days now without taking a fish." —Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea
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Old 07-25-2014, 03:04 PM   #2
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I wont suffer writers who fill first pages with tangential points and loose associations, and take forever to get to some kind of point. The best writers hit you between the eyes within a few sentences.

"It was about eleven o’clock in the morning, mid October, with the sun not shining and a look of hard wet rain in the clearness of the foothills. I was wearing my powder-blue suit, with dark blue shirt, tie and display handkerchief, black brogues, black wool socks with dark blue clocks on them. I was neat, clean, shaved and sober, and I didn’t care who knew it. I was everything the well-dressed private detective ought to be. I was calling on four million dollars." THE BIG SLEEP by Raymond Chandler
Meh. Does seem lame. I like openings that look like a rabbit to my wolf eyes. I see a few wiggles of its ears, smell it over by that snowy hedge, and it has me hungry enough that when it bounds away, I wanna give chase.
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Old 07-25-2014, 03:25 PM   #3
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I wont suffer writers who fill first pages with tangential points and loose associations, and take forever to get to some kind of point. The best writers hit you between the eyes within a few sentences.

"It was about eleven o’clock in the morning, mid October, with the sun not shining and a look of hard wet rain in the clearness of the foothills. I was wearing my powder-blue suit, with dark blue shirt, tie and display handkerchief, black brogues, black wool socks with dark blue clocks on them. I was neat, clean, shaved and sober, and I didn’t care who knew it. I was everything the well-dressed private detective ought to be. I was calling on four million dollars." THE BIG SLEEP by Raymond Chandler

"He was an old man who fished alone in a skiff in the Gulf Stream and he had gone eighty-four days now without taking a fish." —Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea
Justly famous openings. You could say, if you felt cranky, that the Chandler passage is full of irrelevancies. What makes it work so well?
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Old 07-25-2014, 03:26 PM   #4
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Meh. Does seem lame. I like openings that look like a rabbit to my wolf eyes. I see a few wiggles of its ears, smell it over by that snowy hedge, and it has me hungry enough that when it bounds away, I wanna give chase.
Ha. Chandlers opening is reputed to be one of the best. Here's another, from THE LONG GOOD BYE.

The first time I laid eyes on Terry Lennox he was drunk in a Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith outside the terrace of The Dancers. The parking lot attendant had brought the car out and he was still holding the door open because Terry Lennox's left foot was still dangling outside, as if he had forgotten he had one. He had a young-looking face but his hair was bone white. You could tell by his eyes that he was plastered to the hairline, but otherwise he looked like any other nice young guy in a dinner jacket who had been spending too much money in a joint that exists for that purpose and for no other.

There was a girl beside him. Her hair was a lovely shade of dark red and she had a distant smile on her lips and over her shoulders she had a blue mink that almost made the Rolls-Royce look like just another automobile. It didn't quite. Nothing can.
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Old 07-25-2014, 04:22 PM   #5
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It's funny how one size never fits all.
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Old 07-25-2014, 04:44 PM   #6
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While I agree in principle, sometimes the long and winding journey is the point. Ever read The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman?
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Old 07-25-2014, 04:46 PM   #7
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'It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen'. Takes some beating for intrigue.

'I shall soon be quite dead at last in spite of all.' - Again, it immediately raises a question - or rather, a series of questions. If no questions are raised in the reader's mind, the rest of the novel is answering to silence.
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Old 07-25-2014, 05:07 PM   #8
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It's funny how one size never fits all.
I didn't think you used toilet paper.
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Old 07-25-2014, 05:31 PM   #9
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While I agree in principle, sometimes the long and winding journey is the point. Ever read The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman?
Absolutely. And Thomas Nashe, and Spenser, and Richardson, Cervantes, Burton, Joyce, BS Johnson...but I get the impression Mr James Johnson does not approve of those kinds of writers.
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Old 07-25-2014, 05:50 PM   #10
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It's funny how one size never fits all.
So true.
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Old 07-25-2014, 05:56 PM   #11
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Absolutely. And Thomas Nashe, and Spenser, and Richardson, Cervantes, Burton, Joyce, BS Johnson...but I get the impression Mr James Johnson does not approve of those kinds of writers.
Maybe they simply had friendly assholes.
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Old 07-25-2014, 05:58 PM   #12
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Well JBJ you would hate to listen to me talk. I sometimes forget the point after chasing after tangents. Sometimes I know what is happening but can't stop. My wife says that sometimes when we're with friends and I get going, she can tell I know what's happening by the panic showing in my face. It usually takes her to give me "the look" before I can stop.

I'm afraid my writing tends to do that as well, even after I edit it out, again and again.

As Sean Astin said in a commentary on one of the Lord of the Rings DVDs, "If I think of it, then it must be important enough for you to hear it." Or words to that effect.
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Old 07-25-2014, 06:40 PM   #13
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So true.
Hooks come in all sizes, shapes, and fashions. The first paragraph is a good place for it but the first paragraph also sets the mood of stage for the rest of the story. Some are short and direst. Some are long and rambling. Whatever they are, they are for the author, editor, and publisher to decide. Mostly the author.

So for someone to say that this is the way and not that, is pissing in the wind. Not to mention quite a fool.
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Old 07-25-2014, 07:45 PM   #14
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Often, I prefer a brief meander before getting to the point. If you cut out all the extra stuff, you might as well just read the Cliff's Notes version. It reminds me of the saying about headstones. You have the birth and death dates, but it is the dash that is the most interesting part.
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Old 07-25-2014, 08:16 PM   #15
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I think one of the best opening lines in any story I've ever read was:

I died on a Tuesday. Things got progressively worse after that.

The rest of the story must have been seriously crappy because I can't remember who wrote the darn line. Though I know it wasn't a cheesy vampire soap opera.

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Old 07-25-2014, 08:24 PM   #16
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Lien once mentioned an opening line for a book:

The building was on fire, and it wasn't my fault.


It makes the readers wonder what the bloody hell is happening out here. Kinda increases the intrigue factor.

I hate stories that start off with a weather report...just hate it.
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Old 07-25-2014, 08:31 PM   #17
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I hate stories that start off with a weather report...just hate it.
Amen to that!

Best one I've read recently:

They threw me off the hay truck about noon.

Character, setting, and conflict in 9 words.
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Old 07-25-2014, 08:32 PM   #18
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It was a dark and stormy night.

Snoopy.
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Old 07-25-2014, 08:45 PM   #19
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I think one of the best opening lines in any story I've ever read was:

I died on a Tuesday. Things got progressively worse after that.

The rest of the story must have been seriously crappy because I can't remember who wrote the darn line. Though I know it wasn't a cheesy vampire soap opera.

Montanos
Sounds like it could be the beginning of Maryjanice Davidson's Undead series.

If so, you've been slumming, Montanos!
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Old 07-25-2014, 10:34 PM   #20
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Sounds like it could be the beginning of Maryjanice Davidson's Undead series.

If so, you've been slumming, Montanos!

Hah. Apparently.


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Old 07-25-2014, 11:15 PM   #21
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It was a dark and stormy night.

Snoopy.
You beat me to it, but we could do the whole thing:

"It was a dark and stormy night. Suddenly, a shot rang out! A door slammed. The maid screamed. Suddenly, a pirate ship appeared on the horizon! While millions of people were starving, the king lived in luxury. Meanwhile, on a small farm in Kansas, a boy was growing up."

or the genuine original:

"It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents — except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness."
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Old 07-26-2014, 01:14 AM   #22
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http://books.google.com/books?id=mO-...ed=0CCgQ6AEwBg

The Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide: Complete and Unabridged by Douglas Adams

Introduction: A Guide to the Guide: Some unhelpful remarks from the author:

"The history of The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy is now so complicated that every time I tell it I contradict myself, and whenever I do get it right I'm misquoted. So the publication of this omnibus edition seemed like a good opportunity to set the record straight--or at least firmly crooked. Anything that is put down wrong here is, as far as I'm concerned, wrong for good."

Prologue

"Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the Western Spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun.
Orbiting this at a distance of roughly ninety-eight billion miles is an utterly insignificant little blue-green planet whose ape-descended life forms are so amazingly primative that they still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea.
This planet has--or rather had--a problem, which was this: most of the people living on it were unhappy for pretty much of the time. Many solutions were suggested for this problem, but most of these were largely concerned with the movements of small green pieces of paper, which is odd because on the whole it wasn't the small green pieces of paper that were unhappy.
And so the problem remained: lots of people were mean, and most of them were miserable, even the ones with digital watches.
Many were increasingly of the opinion that they'd all made a big mistake in coming down from the trees in the first place. And some said that even the trees had been a bad move, and that no one should have left the oceans.
And then, one Thursday, nearly two thousand years after one man had been nailed to a tree for saying how great it would be to be nice to people for a change, a girl sitting on her own in a small cafe' in Rickmansworth suddenly realized what it was that had been going wrong all this time, and she finally knew how the world coukd be made a good and happy placd. This time it was right, it would work, and no one would have to get nailed to anything.
Sadly, however, before she could get to a phone to tell anyone about it, a terrible, stupid catastrophe occurred, and the idea was lost forever.
This is not her story."

Only gets better.
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Old 07-26-2014, 01:56 AM   #23
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It all started on an unusually balmy autumn Chicago day near the Buckingham fountain replica in Grant park. Jeff was polishing off the final greasy bites of a Vi-ena chili cheese polish, hurrying because he had only seven minutes remaining of his stingy half-hour lunch, when a figure sped by on a bike. Just a flash he barely saw, but even clothed and wearing a nerdy-looking bike helmet, he reminded Jeff of Michelangelo’s David.
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Old 07-26-2014, 05:53 AM   #24
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Henry Fielding, master of the slow start:

"An author ought to consider himself, not as a gentleman who gives a private or eleemosynary treat, but rather as one who keeps a public ordinary, at which all persons are welcome for their money. In the former case, it is well known that the entertainer provides what fare he pleases; and though this should be very indifferent, and utterly disagreeable to the taste of his company, they must not find any fault; nay, on the contrary, good breeding forces them outwardly to approve and to commend whatever is set before them. Now the contrary of this happens to the master of an ordinary. Men who pay for what they eat will insist on gratifying their palates, however nice and whimsical these may prove; and if everything is not agreeable to their taste, will challenge a right to censure, to abuse, and to d—n their dinner without controul."

A story is nowhere in sight, and once the story begins it's still a number of pages before we meet Tom Jones.
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