FIRST AND LAST LINES IN NOVELS
The most important line in the story is the last line, but the reader will never get there unless you have a first line that will make them keep reading. Here are some favorite first and last lines from famous classics:
QUOTE LIKE: You can clearly see it as a quote that stands on its own.
- “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” –Leo Tolstoy in Anna Karenina
- From this first line, you know that the author is going to talk about an unhappy family.
- “When we are confronted by the unknown, the known –however disagreeable– attains new value in our eyes.” –Edna Lee in A Web of Days
- Here seems like the protagonist comes to new appreciation of the known by confronting the unknown, which perhaps might not be that pleasant.
VIVID DESCRIPTIONS: Every little phrase paints a picture in your mind.
- “During the whole of a dull, and soundless day in the autumn of the year, when the clouds hung oppressively low in the heavens, I had been passing alone, on horseback, through a singularly dreary tract of country, and at length found myself, as the shades of the evening drew on, within view of the melancholy House of Usher.” –Edgar Alan Poe in, The Fall of the House of Asher.
- This moody description gives us a clue that something odd is going on in “the melancholy House of Usher,” which sets the scene for a mystery story.
- “On they went, singing “Rest Eternal,” and whenever they stopped, their feet, the horses, and the gusts of wind seemed to carry on their singing.” –Boris Pasternak in Doctor Zhivago
- Now you wonder, “who is this jolly party, where do they come from and where are they going, in what seems the heart of winter?”
STATEMENT LIKE: Something that has already happened and it’s a fact.
- “Well, Prince, Genoa and Lucca are now no more than private estates of the Bonaparte family.” –Leo Tolstoy in War and Peace
- This statement reveals the setting where the conversation takes place –some palace or other environment where princes move- and that there has been a war with Napoleon where places like Genoa and Lucca have been conquered and become estates of the Bonaparte family.
POETIC: It contains the rhythm, vision and abstraction of poetry. (The following is one of my favorites in Modern literary genre.)
- “My wound is geography. It is also my anchorage, my port of call.” Pat Conroy in The Prince of Tides.
- Immediately we know that the protagonist’s wounds have to do with a particular place but at the same time, that place is the place he loves, the place where he returns, where his roots are.
Getting into a story effectively is important, but getting out of it even more effectively is a lot harder.
SUM UP: The tragic ending tied up to the former innocent years.
- “The boat reappeared –but brother and sister had gone down in an embrace never to be parted: living through again in one supreme moment, the days when they had clasped their little hands in love, and roamed the daisied fields together.” –George Elliot in, The Mill on the Floss.
AN END AND A BEGINNING: Makes you wonder about the future.
- “The two speechless gazers bent themselves down to the earth, as if in prayer, and remained thus a long time, absolutely motionless; the flag continued to wave silently. As soon as they had strength they arose, joined hands again, and went on.” –Thomas Hardy in Tess of the D’Urbervilles.
- “The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.” –George Orwell in Animal Farm
HAPPY ENDING: The change and the higher goal.
- “I had nothing now on this side of the grave to wish for: all my cares were over; my pleasure was unspeakable. It now remained, that my gratitude in good fortune should exceed my former submission in adversity.” –Oliver Goldsmith in The Vicar of Wakefield
CONTINUITY: Nothing ends except for the story itself.
- “Yet the lies that Melkor, the mighty and accursed, Morgoth Bauglir, the Power of Terror and of Hate, sowed in the hearts of Elves and Men are a seed that does not die and cannot be destroyed; and ever and anon it sprouts anew, and it will bear dark fruit even unto the latest days.” J.R.R. Tolkien in The Silmarillion
By Elena Tinga
In Defense of Fantasy Literature
“When I examine myself and my methods of thought, I come to the conclusion that the gift of fantasy has meant more to me than any talent for abstract, positive thinking”
I don’t know what people have against imagination and consequently, against fantasy literature, but without this ability with which God has endowed mankind, we would still live in caves and battle with bats. In order for us to create something new that will help us to move a step ahead in the improvement of our lives, we must first imagine it. That is, to think it up and add a picture to it. The best example is God Himself, who created the universe from nothing. He didn’t copy it from some pre-existing reality but was first born in His thought, that is, His imagination. What process He used isn’t that important. What’s important is that He created a universe into which He included all the science we know and that which we still don’t know. In essence, mankind simply discovers from an already existing material. Only God creates from nothing. Even so, mankind, in order to discover anything, will have first to imagine it. Scientific theories have been propounded long before someone was able to prove them. That is why Einstein said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.” It’s impossible to invent something if you don’t have first a picture for it in your mind. I find, therefore, that the contempt and marginalization of fantasy has no logical basis at all, no excuse aside from ignorance.
THE COLOR OF BEING
Do you ever dream? They say that dreams are usually black and white. I was astounded the first time I read this, because my dreams have always had color, and I remember dreams even from my childhood years. But I don’t remember to have ever dreamt in black and white. Things like that make me wonder sometimes if I don’t live in a different parallel. That would also explain why I am so often invisible to people.
Something happened to me years ago, which made me notice my own invisibility and could have badly offended me, if it wasn’t so funny. I was in a café with a friend, when a common acquaintance walked in and coming straight to our table, she started talking to my companion. After a while, she suddenly seemed to take notice of me and said, “Elena! Were you here all the time? I didn’t see you!” I laughed and said, “I am transparent,” and at times I have wondered if it isn’t true.
I started to wonder what was it that made me invisible to people sometimes. I think the best answer I could give is the comment someone made while I was visiting at their home. He said, “She has a very discreet presence.” Which means, I don’t make noise –and I don’t find the reason to do so.
On the other hand, I have very much been noticed as a female, especially in my younger years, which was very much annoying because I knew that these very people, did not see the person in me. And you can imagine that in the rare occasions when someone noticed the person I was, the real me, I felt extremely happy and valuable. There is nothing more precious than having in our life someone, who can capture the true essence of our being and treasure it. We all deserve that. Actually, everything that is alive deserves that, whether it’s a human being, an animal or a plant.
People, who see us and value us, are like my colored dreams; they make us alive and colorful because in their presence we do exist –the true ‘us’ and not just the vessel that holds it, or their prejudiced image of us.
by Έlενα Τίngα
LIFE: COMEDY OR TRAGEDY?
In very general terms, tragedy starts with happy times and ends in catastrophic events, whereas comedy starts with misfortune and ends in triumph. The point here is whether we write our own story or is it partly written by the meddling of others and by what we call fate, or - if we do write our story- to what extend does this happen?
My grandmother used to say, “What [life] writes does not un-write.” It sounds fatalistic but it shows how traditionally people believed in the predestination of every person’s path. That was until somewhere in the eighties. Then we got a strong infusion of “positive thinking”, and of “you-can-create-your-own-destiny” thing, and the resulting amalgam was the loss of self-esteem and the idolization of anything foreign.
Are we free to “write” our own destiny, or is it pre-written and we can do very little to change it? What are we talking about when we talk about changing, or having the control of our lives? I read sometimes articles written by authors who seem to believe that any person in the world can take control of their lives and change their destiny. And I wonder when I read them whether they had taken into account the poor and destitute of this world. Did they consider the thousands who live in the streets or in paper-box-homes? Did they think of the children who are not likely to grow old enough to go to school because hunger and malnutrition will catch up with them? Did they consider the smart and talented in unprivileged countries? Because if it’s true that we can create our own destiny, it must be true for everybody.