Writers’ Trigger: Once you start writing on a regular basis, you move beyond following the plot when you are reading the work of others. You start attending to the craft. You begin reading like a writer – thinking about what works and doesn’t work – adapting the author’s strategies that do work.
Powerful first sentences are critical. Consider the following: From Ambrose Bierce who begins “An Occurrence at Old Creek Bridge” with “A man stood upon a railroad bridge in Northern Alabama, looking down into the swift waters twenty feet below.” This sentence takes you back (what factors led him to the bridge) and forward (what does he plan to do)?
Or, I love this first sentence. Dorothy Parker begins “Big Blonde” with the following sentence. “Hazel Morse was a large, fair woman of the type that incites some men when they use the word ‘blonde’ to click their tongues and wag their heads roguishly.”
Or, when James Baldwin wrote “Sonny’s Blues,” he began with “I read about it in the paper, in the subway, on my way to work. I read it and couldn’t believe it, and I read it again.”
In all three cases, these first sentences raise questions. Why do we read beyond the first page? We read to learn the answers to the questions.
- Begin a short story using one of these three sentences.
- Study these model sentences. Think about why they are so powerful. Write three, first sentences that will engage the reader. If you begin with a mystery, your readers will turn the page to discover the answers.
Eight months a year Greg Pike is on the road with his dog, his cat, and his rat. If he comes to a town near you, you won’t miss him. Greg is tall, thin, sinewy and weather-beaten. He has kind eyes. And you are thinking, “I know a lot of guys like that.” OK. I grant you more clues.
If he is driving cross-country, you will note that his transportation is a riding lawnmower which tows a trailer.
If you happen upon him in the street, you will think you are seeing things. His dog is on a leash. The dog wears a canvas/leather jacket to provide purchase for his cat. The cat rides on the dog’s back. And riding on the cat’s back is a white rat.
Eight months a year, Greg travels about the country. During cold weather, he winters over in Bisbee, AZ. At present Greg is in Westcliffe waiting on repairs to his lawnmower. Once he has his vehicle back, he’ll head south to Texas and then I imagine he’ll hunker down in Bisbee.
Greg’s passion is peace. His testimony is his three unlikely pets. His motto is “If we can get along, why can’t everyone?”
Yesterday I walked to the grocery store with Greg. I assumed that he would tie up the dog once we arrived. But I wondered about the cat. How silly I was to worry. No tie-up was needed. We reached the entrance to the grocery. Greg told the dog to lie down. The dog lay down. The cat lay on top of the dog. The rat lay on top of the cat. A brief command of “Stay” was all it took.
I haven’t been so impressed since seeing a cat and rat act in a Moscow Circus. The trainer had a number of cats and rats. Releasing first a rat and then a cat and then the others in sequence, the cats and rats walked a tightrope.
For those of us who can’t train our cat to stay off the furniture, these acts humble us.
To see Greg Pike and his animals in action, I suggest watching a video at www.bestpeacesign.com. The quality isn’t the best, but the content speaks for itself.