Whose Line Is It? Mine?

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Welcome, everyone. There was an improvisational comedy show (1998 – 2004 or so) that always cracked me up.  I thought it was the best exercise in creativity that I’d ever seen.  It was “Whose Line Is It Anyway?”  Drew Carey, Ryan Stiles, Wayne Brady, and Colin Mochrie could take any “line” and work hilarious magic. 

Those guys created characters, scenes, and songs on the spot, based on a line they were given.  Yet here I am… I already have the characters and scenes, sometimes even a song — all I need is that line…  That illusive opening line!

Why should that be so difficult?  Horsefeathers!  It’s worse than dating, or meeting the CEO of a big company for the first time.  I struggle with the opening line for days  weeks forever.  Then I wonder how important it actually was. 

Today I thought I’d share what I came up with for my Atonement, Tennessee series.  For the first book I began the prologue with this: Dawn’s light cast shadows that shifted amid branches of magnolia and mountain laurel, and danced upon statuary and grave stones. 

Lilith standing on stone
Lilith explores the Sunhold cemetery in “Atonement, Tennessee”

However, my wrongly wired brain complained, that was the prologue!  Did that qualify as the opening line?  So, I struggled all over again with a line for Chapter 1.  It’s hard to sound all fancy-dancy when writing in first person so that was even harder.  I finally settled on this:  I closed my eyes and took a deep breath, ready to savor the moment.

Of course, when I started writing book-2, I went through all that self-torment again.  Worse, I needed to be consistent and keep the magical prologue.  That meant I would go through that double wringer again for Atonement in Bloom.  The prologue begins: Lilith sat bathed in moonlight atop the stone wall, watching small bats dart about, high overhead. 

Then Ralda Lawton, takes over as narrator. Chapter-1 starts like this:  It had seen better days, but who hadn’t?

If I don’t enjoy writing that opening line, then what is my favorite line to write?  “The end.”  Naturally I enjoy writing every line in between.  It’s just that the first one’s a doozy. 

Image by Chris Graham


Frankly, I’ll never be satisfied with an opening line.  So, I’m going to focus on the positive.  Even though it’s been a few years since I published “Atonement” I still get excited about lovely reviews.  I’m downright giddy because recently it has gotten two!  Romance author, Jacquie Biggar posted a review from her blog. 

Author of mystery and suspense, Mae Clair posted this review at Amazon.

Like odd? Like quirky with a generous dollop of magical realism and whimsy thrown in? Then you’re going to love the little town of Atonement, Tennessee and the people (and others) who populate it. Vividly imagined, this is a light but intriguing tale filled with eccentric characters and imaginative plot lines. The shifting narrative between the main character, Esmeralda, and her cat, Lilith (told in 3rd person POV) works surprising well. A truly delightful and “magical” story!

By the way, Mae and Jacquie both have new releases.  Be sure to visit their blogs to learn more!

If you have any questions about the “Atonement-verse” feel free to leave them in a comment.  Also, do you have a favorite opening line from a book you love?  Leave that in a comment too.  I love to hear from you.


Here’s my own shameless self-promotion…

Atonement Video Cover copy

Atonement, Tennessee

Amazon UK

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Murder at the Bijou — Three Ingredients I

Novel-book-The Three Things Serial Story-Teagan Riordain Geneviene-The Writer Next Door-Vashti Q-spotlight-author

The Three Things Serial Story: A Little 1920s Story Kindle 

This is a work of fiction.  Characters, names, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, locales, or events is entirely coincidental.

Copyright © 2018 by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene

All rights reserved.

No part of this work may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission.  Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights.

All images are either the property of the author or provided by free sources, unless stated otherwise. 

73 thoughts on “Whose Line Is It? Mine?

  1. Opening lines are tough as we want readers to be drawn in – and the more emphasis we put on them the harder it becomes to be objective about writing it! As for Whose Line is it Anyway? I’ve loved that show and my parents and I used to watched the original English one in reruns 🙂 Laughing as a family is priceless.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I also fiddle with opening lines, Teagan. I guess we all do [opening and all the others too – grin]. I thought yours were lovely. My favourite opening lines are “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.” from A tale of two cities by Charles Dickens.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, that is a grand opening line indeed, Robbie. Thanks for posting it. I like how it is a preview of the basic nature of the book. Thanks for taking time to visit. I know you have a lot on your plate right now. Hugs on the wing!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Lovely post, Teagan! I’ve only recently started thinking about first lines, and I agree, they’re hard! I’m looking forward to Atonement in Bloom with much excitement. Wonderful reviews, and you’re right…. they never grow old! Happy Writing, my friend.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. You’re most welcome, Teagan. Sorry, I’ve first had a Google India server problem then, a cold that didn’t want to let up (I still have a cough). Congratulations on the great review and the one that will come. 🙂 — Suzanne

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Congratulations on the 2 new reviews, Teagan. These things do fan the flames, don’t they? As for my favorite opening line, it is Pat Conroy’s from The Prince of Tides: “My would is geography.” The line after is, “It is my anchorage, my port of call.” Says so much with so little!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Teagan, I read somewhere that it’s the first 17 lines that matter most. That seems to be what publishers read to decide Yes or No. So, we have more lines to hook our readers! Your books do that without a doubt. Just read Donna’s review and she said all the good things I’d say. Have a great rest of the day! Hugs, my friend! 💜Christine

    Liked by 1 person

  6. It is hard to be direct, witty, and grab the reader with that first line. I really like your switching the original one to the prologue, and changing the opening line. Well done!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Ahhh – to be as witty as the improv comedians. I could be so lucky. Sadly, I’m not. I have a hard enough time carefully picking each word that goes into a post or comment let alone the opening line to a novel.
    I can only hope my words make sense … and I’m grateful for emojis 😏

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I have several favorite opening sentences – Moby Dick, Pride and Prejudice always come to the forefront. I also like the opening sentence of Rebecca – “Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley. . .”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Jan. Those are wonderful books. I loved Rebecca, and read it several times. Then in my mid-thirties, reading it again, somehow the timing and life’s changes… it made a huge impact on me… I identified so strongly with the narrator.
      Thanks for visiting. Happy weekend hugs!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Your first line for Atonement was a visual dream, Teagan. I don’t think you need to worry at all, you’re a pro!
    I bought a book this morning because of the first line: In a Jam by Cindy Dorminy- Some might consider waking up in a drunk tank rock bottom. I call it Thursday. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  10. We had an English version of that show Teagan, which I used to really enjoy 🙂 It is so hard to come up with those first lines, to hook people in! The first lines for Atonement in Bloom sound intriguing – I love the image of Lilith surveying her domain, and Ralda’s first line already leaves me with a question to hook me in 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Andrea, I really appreciate your feedback. I must have changed that line a dozen times — and I kept going back to that one. It was a way to reflect one of Ralda’s character issues throughout the story, so I decided to stick with it.
      Yes, I saw that the English version of the show came first (as always), but I believe that for once it kept the same actors when it came here.
      I appreciate you visiting. Huge hugs.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. The experts say to open your story with some sort of action. But, I can tell you I have read plenty of amazing stories that don’t open with action. I think each story dictates the opening line. Then, there’s the dreaded blurb and logline. Ugh! I struggle with those greatly. Great post, Teagan.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I agonize over my openings, too. Not just the first line, but the whole first scene. I have a few books that had countless beginnings. I wrote, trashed, and rewrote the first chapter I don’t know how many times. So I feel your pain. But I love all the openings you shared. Looks like your efforts were worth it.

    Congrats on the glowing reviews. Doesn’t matter when they come; they’re always a delight to read.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I don’t know this show but I enjoy improvisational theater and shows. It’s fun to do with children. You are such a good writer Teagan, your lines are perfect.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Gerlinde, you are so kind — thank you. I think the show hasn’t been on for a while. I haven’t had cable or regular TV for several years, just Netflix and Youtube. But those guys could always make me laugh. I had not thought about the show in ages. Then I decided to do a post about “first lines” and it came to mind. Happy weekend hugs!


  14. I guess this is why you’re a real writer Teagan. You sweat the small details like opening lines. I just write and lately I haven’t felt much passion for any of it. Congrats on your nice reviews. May your creative juices keep flowing! Hugs!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you kindly, Brad. Your posts do not reflect any lack of passion, but I really do understand what you mean. Maybe a change of pace is in order. When what I’m writing begins to feel stale to me, I try to do something completely different. That’s where my first steampunk story came from. Regardless, have a satisfying weekend. Hugs!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha! I think you’re right about the tears, Mary — at least for a romantic happily ever after. Now that I think about it, I have to agree that the last line is as hard as the first. I hope all is going well. Stay cool. Happy weekend hugs!

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Opening lines, titles, and all those pesky descriptions of things that want so badly to sound boring. It’s all a challenge, but it’s one that you meet very well. I’ve always thought the job of the opening line is to carry me to the next line. I don’t really start to think about a book until I take my first step back. With your books, and your serials, I always find myself pretty far in before that step – that tells me I’m going to like it.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Dan, you’ve really lifted me up this morning. Heartfelt thanks for that description.
      I like your thought about the first line carrying you to the next. Sometimes I make the mistake of feeling I only have that single line to set the entire stage. But what you’ve said is an eye opener. Happy weekend hugs!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Welcome, Viv! Isn’t it though! I feel almost like an old fashioned door-to-door salesman. If I don’t get that line right, the reader might shut the door (or book cover) in my face.
      I enjoyed visiting your blog. Thanks very much for taking time to comment. Happy weekend hugs!

      Liked by 1 person

  16. I also remember that programme and being amazed by how quick and witty they were. I remember struggling with first lines even when I was writing essays. I always remember Hemingway’s edict: “All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.” I am not sure why, because I’ve read a lot of other advice on writing and by authors I feel more affinity for than Hemingway, but there you have it. It’s difficult to choose a first line and I like many of the classics (“Call me Ishmael” included). But one that took my breath away at the time is from Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga: “I was not sorry when my brother died.” The whole novel is fantastic. Thanks for sharing, Teagan, good luck with the book (I love the opening lines) and congratulations on the well-deserved reviews. Enjoy the weekend.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Olga, I’m so glad you included a favorite opening line. Wow! That one is a real grabber! I didn’t remember that advice from Hemingway, but yes. It does resonate with me. “The truest sentence you know…” What a feast for thought.
      Heartfelt thanks for your encouragement, Olga. It’s been a psychologically difficult few days. Have a sensational Saturday. Happy weekend hugs!


    1. Hi Denise. Now you have me thinking about final lines. For me, that might be almost as hard. LOL. Although I did have a lot of fun with the epilogue of Atonement in Bloom. Thanks for taking a moment to visit. Happy weekend hugs!

      Liked by 1 person

  17. The super sad thing is if the date picker was a real person, in real life, they are going to go with number 1.
    When definitely 2 or 3, are the best people ever.
    This is the problem with people. they don’t know whom to hang out with.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. LOL, you’re right about that, Cindy. (Especially around where I am…)
      They had so many great skits on that show. I wish I’d had time to choose a better one. Although Ryan Styles as a chicken always cracked me up — eggs or not. 😉
      I hope all is well in the Holler. Happy weekend hugs!


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