First & Last Lines

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Help! Ghost in the machine (The Word 365 Robot)

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Paul Whybrow

Full Member
Jun 20, 2015
Cornwall, UK
We’ve discussed first and last lines on the forum before, including here and here, but I came across a thought-provoking article this afternoon which suggests that the first and last line can be complementary...bookends, if you will, of the story.

This sent me scurrying to my Cornish Detective series.

Who Kills A Nudist?

* The weather wanted her: she couldn't resist its call.

* He was starting to believe in happy endings.

The Perfect Murderer

* Roger Rule flicked the frequency on his police-scanner, chasing the air-wave communications of Devon & Cornwall Police.

* It was time for him to be where he was again, to inhabit himself once more—he'd been missing his own life.

An Elegant Murder

* Joy trod carefully along the stony track, avoiding the sharp points.

* He couldn't be happier.

Sin Killers

* The ribbons fluttered their messages onto the wind.

* Lone as a mountain lion, he went off through the cold, bulleting rain back to his moorland lair.

The Dead Need Nobody

* The painter wiped the surplus carmine off a fine camel-hair brush pulling it through a dampened pad of cotton wool soaked in white spirit on the shelf of her easel.

* What else could he do?

I see that I begin my stories with what I hope is an intriguing premise of something happening and that I try to end them on an upbeat note for my detective protagonist. This is a deliberate ploy—plunge the reader into a situation—then leave them thinking the detective is OK at The End.

How do you start and end your stories?

Examples, please….

Not on the Cards
Where was the paper?
“Come in, Lian, and we’ll see what message the cards have for you.”

Who Will Rule Magic? Kraken, Dragon, Cat vs Kangaroo, Cockatoo, Crocodile
They rounded the corner and Cocky noticed the changes; he flapped backwards until Roo had to pull up in a puff of dust.
Grey Dove shoved him, laughed and cooed as he crested.

The Old Woman & the Mad Horse
“I don’t want the horse,” Hella grated out between her teeth, “so tell me what I can do, and —
“Well, that’s rude,” Reeni said. “But at least he missed. He doesn’t miss people he don’t like.”

The ghost gums didn’t respond to the movement in the ground.
One day, Valeria would hear the stories for what they truly were, but only when she was old enough to understand.

On reading the above, maybe I've improved as time goes on, or maybe it shows I need to work harder at the last lines and how they resonate with the first ... always learning.
What was the article @Paul Whybrow? Sounds fascinating :)

That's a really lovely first line @Katie-Ellen Hazeldine.

What an interesting exercise:

Spades of Determination
Snug and warm in my bed, deep asleep. It’s May—late autumn in the southern hemisphere. (Oh, man, I see the problems with this! Ah well, it's all part of the journey)
I must recognise that is the silver lining.

The Last Araxa (currently resting, but probably bound for the archives)
Dragons are not my idea of fun.
“May our stars align.”
These are all very old, but it was fun (and educational) to revisit them! I clearly liked to start in the middle of the action, and finish with the protagonist's reflection of where they'd ended up.


‘Doesn’t this goddamned rain ever stop?’ grumbled Clarence Barker, although he should have known that, in a part of the world where it rained 315 days of the year, the answer would have to be ‘not often’.

‘Oh, I bet you will,’ she said, and proceeded to demonstrate why.

Live Without Fear

Lightning flashed on the other side of the ridge. I waited for the thunderclap.

But I had also seen the best and I had become convinced that there was a place for dreams. You just had to find the courage to let them grow.

Safety Margin

The early morning shift was going smoothly when Jessie Hammond found the hole in the perimeter fence.

Then she realised that with fifteen vials of AH-500 still out there, it would be a long time before she did that again.

The Valley of the Horned Horse

I reined in my grey mare, Tanna, at the top of the hill.

Nevertheless, I said a silent farewell to the mythical creatures that waited there, and to the beautiful black and white colt who took his place amongst them.
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Just finished the latest Michelle Live...

Help! Ghost in the machine (The Word 365 Robot)