15.9.14

First Lines Make Lasting Impressions

by Sally Matheny

    
“My name is Sally.” Remember that famous first line? No?


     “My name is Ishmael.” How about that one? Even if you’ve never read Moby Dick, you probably are familiar with that first sentence. 

        




       Over the next two months, a class of teens will have my full attention as we indulge in the delicacies of creative writing. Today, the teens discussed the importance of grabbing readers’ attention in the first line or shortly thereafter.

        I read the first lines from several books to them. First, they told me the book they thought the line came from and second, they told me if it intrigued them enough to keep reading.


        See if you recognize what books hold these first lines:

1.   “There is no lake at Camp Green Lake.”

2.   “When I was in elementary school, I packed my suitcase and told my mother I was going to run away from home.”

3.   “The sun did not shine. It was too wet to play. So we sat in the house. All that cold, cold wet day.”

4.   “Grandchildren, you asked me about this medal of mine. There is much to be said about it.”

5.   “That Sam-I-am! That Sam-I-am! I do not like that Sam-I-am!

        Did you guess correctly? 1. Holes  2. My Side of the Mountain 3. The Cat in the Hat 4. Code Talker 5. Green Eggs and Ham

Words quote by twowritingteachers
        
         This is a fun activity to do with children of any age. Just choose books of which they are familiar. I guarantee most teens will fondly remember those Dr. Seuss books even if it has been ten years since they last heard them read aloud.

        My son recently got into watching trivia game shows. He’s nine and almost all of the questions are out of his realm of comprehension. However, he loves the challenge aspect. Noticing this I now have greater results when I quiz him on school subjects if I do two things. I use my best game show announcer voice and use the words “challenge,” “advance to the next level,” and “you won!” If I cut out pictures of cars, dishwashers, and luggage to present as “prizes,” I wonder will he find that fun or cornball. It’s a fine line, you know.

     The first lines of a book can have a lasting impression. So too, adults have the potential to influence a young life, just by what they say to them:

first thing in the morning,

first thing after school,

first thing after not being successful.

     Make your first lines positive and they’ll definitely have a lasting effect.



Photo by JanusCastrane


(*And by the way, when I was a child, one of my favorite books is Try Again, Sally. I wonder why.)
       

        

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