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First and Last Lines

Jerry Rasmussen 29 Jan 10 - 04:13 PM
Newport Boy 29 Jan 10 - 04:59 PM
Waddon Pete 29 Jan 10 - 05:41 PM
The Vulgar Boatman 29 Jan 10 - 06:09 PM
Artful Codger 29 Jan 10 - 06:10 PM
John on the Sunset Coast 29 Jan 10 - 06:11 PM
mousethief 29 Jan 10 - 06:26 PM
Acorn4 29 Jan 10 - 07:17 PM
quokka 29 Jan 10 - 07:41 PM
Jerry Rasmussen 29 Jan 10 - 07:56 PM
Songbob 29 Jan 10 - 08:01 PM
MartinRyan 29 Jan 10 - 08:33 PM
MGM·Lion 29 Jan 10 - 08:49 PM
MGM·Lion 29 Jan 10 - 09:22 PM
katlaughing 29 Jan 10 - 09:59 PM
Bill D 29 Jan 10 - 10:01 PM
Jerry Rasmussen 30 Jan 10 - 01:29 AM
Reinhard 30 Jan 10 - 04:26 AM
Tangledwood 30 Jan 10 - 04:34 AM
Smedley 30 Jan 10 - 04:41 AM
GUEST 30 Jan 10 - 07:08 AM
GUEST,MikeofNorthumbria sans cookie 30 Jan 10 - 07:10 AM
Will Fly 30 Jan 10 - 07:44 AM
Tug the Cox 30 Jan 10 - 08:08 AM
Acorn4 30 Jan 10 - 08:25 AM
Micca 30 Jan 10 - 08:31 AM
Dave Hanson 30 Jan 10 - 09:54 AM
Waddon Pete 30 Jan 10 - 10:57 AM
Jerry Rasmussen 30 Jan 10 - 11:37 AM
Jerry Rasmussen 30 Jan 10 - 11:44 AM
MikeofNorthumbria 30 Jan 10 - 06:56 PM
Jim Dixon 09 Feb 10 - 06:18 PM
Gurney 09 Feb 10 - 06:56 PM
Jerry Rasmussen 09 Feb 10 - 08:26 PM
Genie 09 Feb 10 - 08:37 PM
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Subject: First and Last Lines
From: Jerry Rasmussen
Date: 29 Jan 10 - 04:13 PM

Whether writing a song, short story, novel, play or screen play, the first and last lines have a special importance. The same is true if you are a reader or viewer.

Some examples of first lines immediately come to mind, the most humorous being "It was a dark and stormy night," by that great American author, Snoopy Brown. I used that line to start a writing once, adding. "Really." I couldn't resist. The first lines of Genesis comes booming off the pages: "In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth." First lines need to get your attention to draw you in and make you want to read or hear more. They set the scene for what is to come.

Last lines can stick in your mind and remain there forever. A classic last line from a movie is from Now Voyager: "Don't let us ask for the moon, we have the stars." Just as first lines can set the stage, last lines can sum up the whole story in one memorable image. The last line of a very long song I wrote about the founding of a small town in Wisconsin seemed just right when it came to me: "If you're worth your salt you'll hold on to your dreams. They're still the best measure of man."

I'm sure that more will come to mind. I'd like to hear yours, whether you are a writer and feel particularly pleased with a first or last line you've written or just an appreciator as I am 95% of the time. It might be interesting to pull a favorite book off the shelf and look at the first and last lines. I'll do that, myself.
It should be interesting.

Jerry


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Subject: RE: First and Last Lines
From: Newport Boy
Date: 29 Jan 10 - 04:59 PM

"I had a farm in Africa, at the foot of the Ngorongoro hills."

Karen Blixen - Out of Africa

One of the most evocative first lines of a book - you can't help but read on.

Phil


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Subject: RE: First and Last Lines
From: Waddon Pete
Date: 29 Jan 10 - 05:41 PM

"Lars Porsena of Clusium, by the nine gods he swore that the great house of Tarquin should suffer wrong no more."

"When the goodman mends his armour, and trims his helmet plume; When the goodwife's shuttle merrily goes flashing through the loom; with weeping and with laughter still is the story told, how well Horatius kept the bridge in the brave days of old."

For my Dad who could recite the whole poem by heart! Bless him!

Peter


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Subject: RE: First and Last Lines
From: The Vulgar Boatman
Date: 29 Jan 10 - 06:09 PM

I love a good bum on a woman, it makes my day...

Jake Thackray


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Subject: RE: First and Last Lines
From: Artful Codger
Date: 29 Jan 10 - 06:10 PM

"A single flow'r he sent me, since we met.
...
Ah no, it's always just my luck to get
One perfect rose."
(Dorothy Parker, "One perfect rose")

Which also highlights the ever-popular circular technique--having the end revisit the beginning, the most florid example being Wagner's Ring cycle. Everyone uses this technique, from poets to journalists to stand-up comedians.


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Subject: RE: First and Last Lines
From: John on the Sunset Coast
Date: 29 Jan 10 - 06:11 PM

Jerry, Snoopy Brown is a plagiarist. "It was a dark and story night..." is actually the opening line to the novel Paul Clifford by Edw. Bulwer-Lytton. From W'pedia:

"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."

Each year there is a contest to write the most convoluted opening sentence to a supposed novel, and that was the joke in the Peanuts comic. But the original is always the best (worst?).


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Subject: RE: First and Last Lines
From: mousethief
Date: 29 Jan 10 - 06:26 PM

It's also the first line of A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine l'Engle.

From my favourite book:

"There was once, in the country of Alifbay, a sad city, the saddest of cities, a city so ruinously sad that it had forgotten its name." --Salman Rushdie

O..O
=o=


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Subject: RE: First and Last Lines
From: Acorn4
Date: 29 Jan 10 - 07:17 PM

Do you, Leanne, take Wayne, "wicked innit?"
To text each other 'til you've used up your minutes,
With this ringtone I thee wed,
Who said that romance was dead?


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Subject: RE: First and Last Lines
From: quokka
Date: 29 Jan 10 - 07:41 PM

From my favourite book:

First line:
'Stately, plump Buck Mulligan came from the stairhead, bearing a bowl of lather on which a mirror and a razor lay crossed.'

Last line: (very long without punctuation so I'll just do the last bit)
'...and then I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes.'

Anyone care to guess the book?


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Subject: RE: First and Last Lines
From: Jerry Rasmussen
Date: 29 Jan 10 - 07:56 PM

Here's the first sentence from one of my favorite books by Clyde Edgerton, Killer Diller.
"Vernon Jackson sits on the side of his bed in his white jockey undershorts - which have mostly separated from their waistband."

These are the last three lines of the book:
"The bus slows for a turn-off, jostles Wesley. He awakes, looks around, reaches for some popcorn in the bag from Phoebe's lap. "I want some," says Vernon, reaching his hand over Wesley's shoulder.'

Clyde Edgerton is not only a brilliant writer, somewhat in the feel of Flannery O'Connor, but he is a folk musician and wrote a song that served as the title for my favorite book of his, Walking Across Egypt. He has at least one CD out.

And yes, the last line often is the bow on the ribbon on the package of a song. It wraps up the whole song.

Jerry


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Subject: RE: First and Last Lines
From: Songbob
Date: 29 Jan 10 - 08:01 PM

Here's an example of a verse that leads up to the last line and makes it more powerful. From Kipling, the Last Rhyme of Thomas the Rhymer:

"Sleep ye or wake," True Thomas said,
"That sit so still, that muse so long;
Sleep ye or wake? -- till the latter sleep
I trow ye'll not forget my song.

"I ha' harpit a shadow out o' the sun
To stand before your face and cry;
I ha' armed the earth beneath your heel,
And over your head I ha' dusked the sky.

"I ha' harpit ye up to the throne o' God,
I ha' harpit your midmost soul in three;
I ha' harpit ye down to the Hinges o' Hell,
And -- ye -- would -- make -- a Knight o' me!"


That's a last line.

Bob


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Subject: RE: First and Last Lines
From: MartinRyan
Date: 29 Jan 10 - 08:33 PM

Quokka

You'll is he's....

Regards


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Subject: RE: First and Last Lines
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 29 Jan 10 - 08:49 PM

It is a truth universally acknowledged that the mark of a second rate journo is to fall back on the greatest ironic opening in the history of the novel...

And then there is "Call me Ishmael."


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Subject: RE: First and Last Lines
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 29 Jan 10 - 09:22 PM

Getting back to folksong — surely one of best ballad last line floaters has to be "He cut off her head from her neckbone And kicked it against the wall".


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Subject: RE: First and Last Lines
From: katlaughing
Date: 29 Jan 10 - 09:59 PM

First (well 3:-): "There was a load crash against the outside door. The snow was deep and the air bitterly cold. It seemed to magnify every sound; tree branches breaking with loud cracks sounded like the crack of whips the muleskinners used."

Last (so far): "The tendrils of the evening's campfire were nature's incense to them, a sacredness surrounded them as they sat together holding hands or in a loose embrace watching the flames and imagining how their lives would be from now on."

From working title "West of Leadville." (In its first edit.)


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Subject: RE: First and Last Lines
From: Bill D
Date: 29 Jan 10 - 10:01 PM

My favorite last line(s) from a folk song...

From "I've Rambled This Countrie, Both Earlye and Late" (a man musing after losing his love to someone else)

"Since it is no better, I'm glad that it is no worse-
Brandy in my bottle, and money in my purse."


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Subject: RE: First and Last Lines
From: Jerry Rasmussen
Date: 30 Jan 10 - 01:29 AM

How about the last lines from a version of The Farmer's Cursed Wife? "That shows that the women are better than men, they go down to Hell and they come back again."

"Call me Ishmael." Ah, yes. That can't be topped.

Jerry

For Get Fuzzy fans, Bucky the cat would probably rewrite it as "Call me fish entrails."


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Subject: RE: First and Last Lines
From: Reinhard
Date: 30 Jan 10 - 04:26 AM

"There were crimson roses on the bench; the looked like the splashes of blood."

"There were gold chrysanthemums on the judge's bench; they looked like burning banners."

are the beginning of the first and last chapters of Dorothy Sayers' novel Strong Poison. This was published four years after Dorothy Parker's "One perfect rose" so Mrs. S. may have borrowed the theme from Mrs. P. And who knows why on of the main characters in the Lord Peter series is called Charles Parker...


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Subject: RE: First and Last Lines
From: Tangledwood
Date: 30 Jan 10 - 04:34 AM

It was a dark and stormy night and the captain said to the first mate "tell us a story". So he did, and it went like this: "It was a dark and stormy night and the captain said to the first mate . . . "


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Subject: RE: First and Last Lines
From: Smedley
Date: 30 Jan 10 - 04:41 AM

My favourite first line from a song is from 'Plaistow Patricia' by Ian Dury and the Blockheads.

But some contributors here don't like too much swearing, so I won't quote it........


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Subject: RE: First and Last Lines
From: GUEST
Date: 30 Jan 10 - 07:08 AM

"It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen"

Thank you George - it might have happened if you hadn't warned us.

It might still happen if we don't keep remembering your warning.

And sometimes I wonder whether it has already happened, and we just haven't noticed yet.

The Ministries of Peace are still planning wars.
The Ministries of Truth are still telling lies.
The Ministries of Plenty are still conserving resources for the few by depriving the many.
The Ministries of Love are still imprisoning, torturing and killing, 'in the interests of national security'.

And Big Brother is still watching us.

Wassail!


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Subject: RE: First and Last Lines
From: GUEST,MikeofNorthumbria sans cookie
Date: 30 Jan 10 - 07:10 AM

Sorry folks, that last one was me.

Wassail again.

Mike


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Subject: RE: First and Last Lines
From: Will Fly
Date: 30 Jan 10 - 07:44 AM

It was the afternoon of my eighty-first birthday, and I was in bed with my catamite when Ali announced that the archbishop had come to see me.

Anthony Burgess: "Earthly Powers" opening line.


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Subject: RE: First and Last Lines
From: Tug the Cox
Date: 30 Jan 10 - 08:08 AM

'There's some one at the door'
'No, only a fool would be out on a night like this'
'Hello.....I'm Eccles'


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Subject: RE: First and Last Lines
From: Acorn4
Date: 30 Jan 10 - 08:25 AM

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times!

I may not have got that word perfect but the start of "Tale of Two Cities" had always struck me as a great opening.


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Subject: RE: First and Last Lines
From: Micca
Date: 30 Jan 10 - 08:31 AM

First Line

"Awake, for morning in the Bowl of Night
Has flung the stone that puts the stars to flight"


Last line

"And in thy joyous Errand reach the Spot
Where I made one--turn down an empty Glass!"


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Subject: RE: First and Last Lines
From: Dave Hanson
Date: 30 Jan 10 - 09:54 AM

The last sentence in Moby Dick is not bad either " I alone survive to tell thee "

Dave H


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Subject: RE: First and Last Lines
From: Waddon Pete
Date: 30 Jan 10 - 10:57 AM

Hello Micca,

Dad knew that one as well!

Best wishes,

Peter


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Subject: RE: First and Last Lines
From: Jerry Rasmussen
Date: 30 Jan 10 - 11:37 AM

The opening lines of A Tale of Two Cities is a classic that has passed into our conversations.

I'm not sure that "Rosebud" was the last line of Citizen Kane but if it wasn't it certainly feels like it.

And what was the last line of Casablanca? I'll have to get out my DVD to check it.

The last line of one of my songs that my friend olddude kindly posted on my website at http://jrasmussen.net is "But my whitewalls were never quite the same again. You'd have to listen to the song to get it.

Jerry


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Subject: RE: First and Last Lines
From: Jerry Rasmussen
Date: 30 Jan 10 - 11:44 AM

Oh yeah, here's the blue clicky if you want to hear the song.. Three Speeds Forward and No Speeds Back.

http://jrasmussen.net

http://jrasmussen.net

Jerry


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Subject: RE: First and Last Lines
From: MikeofNorthumbria
Date: 30 Jan 10 - 06:56 PM

Last line of Casablanca (from memory): "This could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship"

Wassail!


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Subject: RE: First and Last Lines
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 09 Feb 10 - 06:18 PM

[Beginning:]
I WISH either my father or my mother, or indeed both of them, as they were in duty both equally bound to it, had minded what they were about when they begot me; had they duly consider'd how much depended upon what they were then doing;—that not only the production of a rational Being was concerned in it, but that possibly the happy formation and temperature of his body, perhaps his genius and the very cast of his mind;—and, for aught they knew to the contrary, even the fortunes of his whole house might take their turn from the humours and dispositions which were then uppermost; Had they duly weighed and considered all this, and proceeded accordingly, I am verily persuaded I should have made a quite different figure in the world, from that in which the reader is likely to see me.

[End:]
L—d! said my mother, what is all this story about?—
A COCK and a BULL, said Yorick—and one of the best of its kind I ever heard.

—from The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, by Laurence Sterne


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Subject: RE: First and Last Lines
From: Gurney
Date: 09 Feb 10 - 06:56 PM

Jerry, I think your version of 'The Farmer's Cursed Wife' is bowdlerised. Mine goes; 'This proves that the women are worse than the men. When they go down to hell, they get kicked out again.'


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Subject: RE: First and Last Lines
From: Jerry Rasmussen
Date: 09 Feb 10 - 08:26 PM

Might be, Gurney, but I heard it sung by a woman. I liked it better, anyway. The women always get a big kick out of it. Men can afford a laugh at their expense once in awhile. It's good for the circulation.

:-)


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Subject: RE: First and Last Lines
From: Genie
Date: 09 Feb 10 - 08:37 PM

I think both the first lines and the last ones of A Tale Of Two Cities are classic.


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