Take Five Opening Lines – 27 November 2019

‘First sentences are doors to worlds’ – Ursula K Le Guin

Split into groups of four, notebooks and pens poised, sluggish brains cranked into first gear and we were off – ready to tackle the writing exercise prepared by our Presidents Chris and Graeme.

We were provided, one at a time, with five different opening lines with the aim of inspiring Flash Fiction stories and given several minutes to write each one. We could discuss and work together in our group or, if we preferred, choose to work individually. The first hour of the evening passed in a flash (pardon the pun) as we chatted about the prompts and the ideas they sparked, then got down to scribbling our tales.

Refreshed by tea or coffee and a choccy biscuit it was time to feedback.

So how did we find the task? Did we find it easy to create a plot from random first lines? Did stories flow? Or were we stumped?

Consensus of opinion – team-writing didn’t work – too many different views and ideas of where the storylines should go. Writing individually was much more productive. We enjoyed the challenge and found the prompts helped us focus, making us think outside the box. Some of the sentences caught our imaginations right away. Others we found a bit more difficult to get a take on. But everyone wrote something. First lines and examples from those who volunteered to share:

1. Beneath the kitchen sink he kept…
a plunger –a man wrestling with a blocked waste disposal suspects his wife is having a fling with their minister. Could there be a murder?
a selection of mysterious keys – a secretive man has a hidden locked door leading to his cellar where he keeps his guilty secret – stage costumes and masks.
sharpened knives, mousetraps, hammer and pliers – for use in an emergency situation (see sentence no.2).
a baby monitor – the raw grief and impact on a couple of losing a baby.
a detached finger – gristly and stumpy, preserved in a bottle of whisky, shoved between the bleach and Brillo pads.

2. The fence was too high to jump, there was nowhere left to…
go/hide/run.
Archie’s chased by a giant and tries desperately to hide under a chair trying to escape … being sent for his nap by his mum.
a horseman is being pursued by persons unknown through a Highland estate. He heads for a bothy and the items hidden below the sink (see sentence no 1).
a WW2 internment camp, a high-ranking Nazi, a female German spy trained as an assassin.

3. The monotonous beat of a heart monitor flat lining was a sound she…
adored – a nurse thrilled by death helps ‘another one bite the dust’ with a surreptitious insulin jab.
savoured – a patient is euthanised by a concerned relative. Or is it something more sinister?

4. Tom went to the shops. The weather was awful. He met Penny, a girl he vaguely knew. She smiled at him and he asked her for a date …
a romantic walk in the rain, hand holding and gazing into each other’s eyes … till their lips almost meet. Then Penny produces a knife.
Penny’s handing out canapé samples in the supermarket and Tom’s request for a date goes very wrong, when she hands him one wrapped up in bacon – and he’s vegetarian.

5. When, that May Day morning, Admiral Rumbold stepped out of his four-wheeled cab at the corner of Market Street, he was carrying a small brown-paper parcel …
containing mackerel and he sits on a bench feeding hungry seagulls.
which he carries into a building and climbs the stairs. He looks down from a window onto his vehicle below and admires the domino on its roof. He’s a pizza delivery Admiral!

What a great variety of stories. And those were just the ones we heard. My Admiral’s brown paper parcel was keeping his Playboy mags under wraps. Enough said.

We were also treated to a short presentation by Marion Husband on her newly published book – Explore Govan.

Marion, a born Govanite, was inspired to write her guidebook after taking her mother on nostalgic visits to their home turf, hoping to stimulate memories. Joining Ayr Writers’ Club has encouraged her to self-publish her book. Relishing the challenge of research, Marion used a variety of reference books, including a family heirloom passed down from her husband’s father – The History of Govan by T.C.F. Brotchie published in 1905 – plus her own investigative and interviewing skills on location. Being adept with a camera, she has taken many of the images which illustrate her book herself.

With tales about –

Govan’s shipyards.
Govan’s Old Parish Church and medieval archaeological finds.
Victorian engineer and shipbuilder John Elder and his remarkable widow Isabella Elder, a philanthropist who financed many causes including championing women medical students.
Watson’s Bakery with its legendary pies and cream cookies
Golspie Street’s most famous son – Sir Alex Ferguson.

Marion’s talk was fascinating.

I particularly loved her tenacity, contacting Sir Alex Ferguson, requesting his permission to use an old photograph she’d found online of a very youthful Alex taken during his Govan childhood in her book – only for Sir Alex to ask her for a copy of the photo (which he’d never seen before) for himself. Priceless.

Marion, as they might say in Govan – Goan yersel, hen!

Linda Brown

2 comments

  1. Ajay Joglekar

    Well done Linda, so much material to contend with so you have condensed this well. Moreover you have captured the essence of the evening’s atmosphere and I like your description of Marion’s wonderful session.

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