Writing The First Sentence


James Foster loves cranberry muffins.

“What do you think?”

“It sucks. The aim of the first sentence is to arouse curiosity.”

“Ok, how about this: James Foster would walk a mile for a cranberry muffin. Doesn’t that make you at least a little curious?”

“Not really.”

“Well what am I supposed to say? I can’t tell the whole story in the first sentence.”

“Let me give you an example: James Foster used to hate cranberry muffins. See the difference? It immediately raises a question: Why didn’t he like them, and what made him change his mind?”

“I see what you mean. But it wouldn’t be true. He’s always loved them.”

“It was just meant as an example. I don’t know what he likes or dislikes. I’m just trying to make a point. Write whatever you want. I’ve got to go. I’ll talk to you later.”

“Wait a minute! Maybe I’m just trying to get into the story the wrong way. What if I started out with this instead:”

I have a wonderful blue ribbon named Nancy.

“You do? No kidding? How long have you had her?”

(And so the story began…)

* * *

Originally posted 2/28/09 as “Impulsive Writing (12)”


10 comments on “Writing The First Sentence

  1. I wrote my book, ‘The Mandolin Case,’ with a mandolin strung around my neck. When I got to an impass I would play a tune for a while and then the words would come to me.

    I am a Doctor for a living. If I had written it like a Doc it would have been very boring.

    Dr. Tom Bibey



  2. This is adorable. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you, a story, nay a factual recount, about the spark of curiosity invoked by the paradoxical chronology of James Foster’s affinity for cranberry muffins!


  3. Dear Mr. Lawson,

    It has taken me quite some time to break free from the white coldness of your otherwise quite enjoyable Impulsive Writing Page. As a matter of fact, by the time you were producing the above, thereby permanently imprisoning me here, I was pleasantly busy on talking on the phone on Graphic Stimulation number 2. I have also spent many enjoyable hours repeatedly falling off the edge of the world, skimming through Great Expectations (I hope you don’t mind my having planted a bomb in it… anyway, your readers here seem to have enjoyed my explosive intervention), and driving around in those fancy little red and yellow cars. (Maybe now would be a right moment to confess that I ran over that blindfolded guy… the diaper is still intact, though, and may be recycled and re-used in case of necessity).

    As I was saying. I was having quite a time here on your blog. Until you decided to pull me out of my hard-earned anonymity. And how? By means of the most despicable, atrocious, ferocious, mean, rude, absurd and mind-boggling of lies. I would have silently admitted anything: you could have written that I was gay, bi, a terrorist, a feminist or a Russian – but what you have done simply goes too far. It is a beyond unacceptable affront to my fictional integrity and I have resolved to appeal to the Supreme Court of Feather and Ink and sue you for calumny and literary harassment. As I’ve already said, you could have chosen to spread any kind of lie about me. But saying that I love cranberry muffins??? When everyone around me knows that what I have always loved are banana brownies? Who do you think you are?

    Not only would I not walk a mile for those culinary atrocities – I would have them banned by law! If things are fucked up in this world, it is solely the result of the unholy existence of cranberry muffins. Wars, slavery, communism, totalitarianism, the jihad, diseases, poverty, hunger, misery, filth and Michelle Obama’s haircut – all of this would have been a simple daymare in the absence of cranberry muffins. And you dare say I love them? What on earth has gotten into you?

    You know, I was really starting to like you. I loved all of your pictures of naked women, and the cute little doggie and snake, and even that eye peeking at me from behind the rest of the Berlin wall whenever I walked by. It sort of made me feel stared at. Usually women are not really into voyeuristic stuff like that. But hey, I thought I had come across the first one. And then you had to come up and spoil everything.

    You know what? I suggest you permanently move to that woman’s blog who keeps intruding on us here. Yetsreday I was quietly relaxing in that woods on the mountain slope. You had finally reached the peak and I was all alone, untroubled and undisturbed. And then this dreadful creature had to appear – again – and turn my wood into Freud’s office. The two of you really deserve each other.

    Well, I guess I will be seeing you in court. Meanwhile, please try to stay away from Impulsive Writing number 2. I have some unfinished business to take care of.

    Sincerely yours,

    James Foster

    PS I forgot to mention I’m European. So the only thing I’d walk would be 1,609344 km. Have a nasty, rotten day.


  4. “Tell you what James, I’m going to let the ‘nasty, rotten day’ thing pass. In fact I’m going to completely forget not only what you said, but also the guy who said it. Know what that means Jimmy boy? Well, you’ve got about one second to figure it out. One thousand one, one thousand two…Bye-bye.”

    Just as he begins to permanently remove James from memory, he has a thought. “Hey, Jimmy…hang on a second. I think I’ll let you stick around a little longer. There’s something I may want you to do in the next day or so. Meantime…take a break, light yourself a smoke, go ahead and grab a beer if you like. I’ll be getting back to you… ”


  5. Aha! So that shredder actually DOES work! I knew it couldn’t have broken down, like you said it did.

    PS He really seems like the kind of guy who’d drink beer. Meanwhile, wouldn’t you like to drop by the alcove and have a glass of Courvoisier with me?


  6. This piece has generated a lot of comment, and, again,
    Jadepaloma’s assumed character is the most promising it seems to me.


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