I’m tired of beginnings. They’re exhausting, and it’s awfully hard to get them right. There’s nothing worse than starting something with a “meh”. Like reading a listicle that starts with a question: Are you getting enough vitamin B in your diet? Well here are 7 sources of that … blah, blah, blah.
I’m guilty of that sort of thing. It’s trite and boring.
Opening lines, like handshakes, create an impression. In grand literature, they’re extraordinary, memorable, once in a life time handshake that keeps on gripping you. Even my little-read college students have heard the line, “It was the best of times…” But Dickens is not alone or even the top of the greatest hits of first liners.
I like intriguing first liners like Philip Roth’s one about awakening one day to find himself an enormous breast–“It began oddly.” Or short punchy ones, like “I am not a total idiot.” I actually don’t remember the author of that one, but the line has stuck with me. Maybe that’s just me, and what sticks is random.
It’s challenging to be unique, innovative, and first in language. After all, we have only 26 letters at our disposal. How different can we be? Haven’t all the possible letter combinations been tapped? Is there still some one-of-a-kind combination yet to be splayed linearly across a page? Maybe that’s why I’m so fond of making up words that seem intuitively and associatively clear.
Though I suspect you don’t have to go that far to pen something new. Memoirist Patricia Hampl claims describing what you see, what you know, from your eyes alone is unique enough. No one’s lived your life or sees things precisely the way you do. Perspective. Lens.
It may not be a new alphabet, but it’s vision–and all that we’ve got.