Monday, November 9, 2009

Index of first sentences from the short story collection: "Hugh and Cry" by James Alan McPherson

(Question: What makes a good first sentence?)

1. A Matter of Vocabulary -- "Thomas Brown stopped going to church at twelve after one Sunday morning when he had been caught playing behind the minister's pulpit by several deacons who had come up into the room early to count the money they had collected from the other children in the Sunday school downstairs."

2. On Trains -- "The waiters say she got on the train in Chicago, after transferring from Dearborn Station."

3. A Solo Song: For Doc -- " 'So you want to know this business, young-blood? So you want to be a Waiter's Waiter?' "

4. Gold Coast -- "That Spring, when I had a great deal of potential and no money at all, I took a job as a janitor."

5. Of Cabbages and Kings -- "Claude Sheets had been in the Brotherhood all his life and then he had tried to get out."

6. All the Lonely People -- " 'Why do they always fail me, Dennis?' "

7. An act of prostitution -- "When he saw the woman, the lawyer put down his pencil and legal pad and took out his pipe."

8. Private Domain -- "Rodney finished his beer in slow, deliberate swallows, peering over the rim of his mug at the other black who, having polished off three previous mugs of draft, now sat watching Rodney expectantly, being quite obvious with his eyes that he held no doubt that more beer was forthcoming."

9. A New Place -- "At first all we had growing was a potted plant that Ellen had brought over and put in the window."

10. Hue and Cry -- " 'But what if that is all there is, what is left of life and why we are alive?' "

1. Which one is the best and why?


  1. #5

    I'm totally a sucker for simplicity in writing. It just seems like a good first sentence to me; I want to be in the action right away. I want to hit the ground running.

  2. #6
    I like dialogue as a beginning, and that's a huge emotional hook.

  3. #5

    The conflict comes right at you, up in your face like a angry girlfriend. When I saw this story many, many years ago (in a book with short stories I can't recall the title of), it was this sentence which compelled me to mash my nose into the pages. I loved the story albeit it was a little weird, but quite engaging nevertheless.

    Hey! Can you tell me where I can find this story today...can anyone help me with that?

  4. #5
    It draws you in like a fresh tub of water, feet first. And you know you're in for a whole body experience. Great story!