Friday, 22 January 2010

Writing/ Speaking - Opening Lines

Ok time to talk books. See this link for the 100 best first lines of novels, as chosen by the American Book Review. I've picked out five of my favourites below for a very quick and easy lesson but with lots of legs. Choose these, choose your own...go for your life.

For an intro you can ask the students about the last book they read and what kind of books they like to read. You can elicit different genres of books - eg science fiction, thriller, romance etc - and talk about what qualities are specific to each genre.

Opening Lines

1. It was a wrong number that started it, the telephone ringing three times in the dead of night, and the voice on the other end asking for someone he was not. (Paul Auster, City of Glass)

2. If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don't feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth. (J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye)

3.Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice. (Gabriel Garcia Marquez, One Hundred Years of Solitutude)

4. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair. (Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities)

5. It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. (George Orwell, 1984)

Discussion questions

Do you know any of these famous opening lines?
Do you like them? Why/ why not?
Describe to your teacher/ partner what is happening in each of them in your own words
Is there anything unusual about any of them?
A good opening to a book makes us want to read on. What do we want to know/ find out after these opening lines?
What makes a good start to a book?
What makes a good end to a book? Do you like happy endings?

Follow-up activity

A variety of choices here for writing/ speaking exercises


Choose one of the openings above and write a short story about what happens next, including the ending

(If it's a group) Choose one of the openings above and then write down the next line of the novel and then pass your creation to the person next to you. Continue doing this until you have your original piece of paper again. Read out your story to your teacher

Write the first line of your new novel...then the last line...your partner has to guess what happens in between. The most interesting wins.


Choose one of the openings above and tell your teacher/ partner what's going to happen next

(If it's a group) Everyone takes it in turn to say what happens next in the story until you have a complete story with an ending. Students can leave the sentence open for the next person to complete. eg 'He walked into the living room and he saw a...' etc

You get the idea, endless opportunities...alternatively you can use this exercise to practice specific grammar points...the choice is yours.

No comments:

Post a Comment