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

Just Write, Monday 5th May: First lines.

I have been a little remiss in posting updates following the last couple of writing class sessions so I’ll try to redress over this post and next to cover the 5th and 19th (we didn’t meet on the 12th). As my first line suggests we spent some time a fortnight ago covering, ahem, first lines. From a relatively straightforward prompt – man and woman meeting for the first time – I had:

She only realised she was still alive as he pulled her dead husband off her.

“I can’t believe it meant that little to you. It’s me, Sophie !”

“Hi, are you Michaela ? Thanks for filling in – I usually throw the knives from here but just relax, I’ll let you know where to stand”

Notably none of them will be troubling this post’s title as killer openings (typing this up I note that I’d scribbled “it is a truth universally acknowledged…” in the margin of my notebook, possibly as inspiration, possibly as an ironic nod to the limits of my efforts). However, I don’t entirely hate the slightly gloomy first one and the last one works alright in a light, knockabout way.

The main exercise expanded from a prescribed first line and, as usual, involved a quick five minutes of free writing. Opener was “why did you do that ?”

“Why did you do that ?”

“I don’t know.” I was pleading now, an urgent catch in my voice. My head was swimming and I tried to slow everything down, tried to make sense of it all.

“Come on !” he barked. He’d been growing ever more impatient, striding around the small holding cell, and now he leaned in close. “You must know Mr Reynolds. You do know.”

Silence hung between us. He didn’t move away and I held his gaze for fear that to look away might hint at guilt, might give him further cause to doubt me. Eventually he strode back across the room, his back to me.

“You withdrew £200 Mr Reynolds, on each of your three cards. Yesterday we have a witness statement that says you bought a new mobile phone but you were still in contract on your old one. You erased the contents of your hard drive.”

“I just don’t know…” I trailed off.

“And today, Mr Reynolds, we pulled your wife out of the Manchester canal. So I ask again: why did you do that ?”

I am tending to find that I’m producing work outside of the class – either as part of the homework or unrelated – that I’m more satisfied with and this wasn’t an exception. I like the discipline of being thrown a start point and having to produce something but it’s rare that it produces anything I’d necessarily keep. In this instance I was reasonably happy with the mood of the scene and the premise was okay (man genuinely not aware of what he may or may not have done despite large body of evidence against him) if not especially original. I suspect, however, that a terse, tight thriller is not going to be my calling…


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