20 Templates for Opening Sentences

From popchartlab.com, "A Digrammatical Dissertation on Opening Lines of Notable Novels"

From popchartlab.com, “A Digrammatical Dissertation on Opening Lines of Notable Novels”

  1. Confession: ________.
  2. If I ever have kids, _____
  3. There are two kinds of people in this world: ______________.
  4. Consider this: ________.
  5. Here’s a fact: ________.
  6. Fun fact: ________.
  7. I keep forgetting ________.
  8. The topic of ________ has always meant ________ to most people.  To me, though, it’s meant ________.
  9. The day/night I lost my virginity/heard my first Beatles song/learned to skip, ________.
  10. Let’s get this out of the way: ________.
  11. If there is one thing I know from ________, it is this: ________.
  12. ________ sucks.
  13. ________ blows.
  14. ________ always makes me cry.
  15. Yesterday I had a conversation with X. about _________ .
  16. I’ve always _______.  Ever since ____, I ____.
  17. Names are ______. Or maybe ______.
  18. It is a truth universally acknowledged ______. (Lifted from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice: “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.”)
  19. Call me _______. (Lifted from Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick: “Call me Ishmael.”)
  20. There are people who can _______. I am not one of them. (Lifted from Cornelia Read’s A Field of Darkness: “There are people who can be happy anywhere. I am not one of them.”)

Bonus Opening Sentences

 Happy _________ are __________; every unhappy _________ is _________. (Lifted from Leo Tolstoy’s Anne Karenina: “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

Something I never told you/anyone: __________. (Mike Perrota)

If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is___________. (Lifted from J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye)

In the early _______, ________ was considered to be _________, and it wasn’t until __________ that ____________ began to be associated with __________. (Robin J. Morrison)

Listen:_________. (Robin J. Morrison)

Did you really think I would ______________? (Frances Cortez O’Connor)




Great Opening Sentences [link]

American Book Review’s 100 Best First Lines from Novels [link]


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The “Twenty Little Nonfiction Projects” Assignment

This assignment is inspired by the “Twenty Little Poetry Projects” exercise, invented by Jim Simmerman, and appears in The Practice of Poetry: Writing Exercises from Poets Who Teach, edited by Robin Behn and Chase Twitchell (HarperCollins, 1992. Over the years, it has turned into famous writing prompt project, as these things go, and many poets have tried their hand at it.  So many that there was an anthology of Twenty Little Poetry Project poems.

The only real “rule” Jim Simmerman offers in his explanation of his assignment is that writers open the work with the first project and close with the last; otherwise, use the projects in whatever order you like.  The same would apply here. Check them off as you move along, as in a scavenger hunt.  But do use all 20 projects.  Repeat some if you want.  Unless it makes sense for the piece, do not make a numbered list. Instead, try to craft this into sentences, paragraphs, narration and dialogue.

1. Begin by completing one of the following phrases: “This is about ______”; “This will be about ______”; “Tomorrow will be ______”; “They say that”; “Consider this: ______”; “There are two kinds of people: ______”;

2. Describe an event from the past in the present tense in 3-4 sentences.
3. Use at least one image for each of the five senses (sight, hearing, taste, smell, touch), either in succession or scattered randomly throughout the piece.

4. Offer commentary on the event in #2 in the past tense, again with three sentences; begin with: “Back then, I didn’t realize ______” or “We didn’t know that ______” or “I would later find out that ______.”

5. Mention the name of a religion or faith other than the one you were brought up in, or your ancestors were brought up in.

6. Also: perhaps in another sentence, tell us how this religion or faith would address project #4.

7. Use the proper name of a person and the proper name of place.

8. Contradict what you say in #1 with a qualifier; try something like “Maybe this is really about ______”; “Perhaps tomorrow ______”; “Other people say that ______”; “Maybe what I’m really talking about ______”; “I’m lying to myself, because _______”; “I also remember this: ______.”

9. Make a statement about a recent advance in one of the hard or pure sciences (physics, computer science, geology, chemistry, biology) and make it relate it to one of your your other sentences.

10. Use a word (slang?) that you never usually use in a sentence that makes sense in the context of another sentence or in another sentence entirely. Use a slang dictionary or Urban Dictionary, or ask someone.

11. Use an example of an ad hominem fallacy (an example: “That’s easy for me/you/her, him, them to say, because ______”).

12. Create a composite character of two or more people (relatives, friends, co-workers, teachers).  Give that character a role in the piece.  Use a real name of one of the compositees, or assign another. He or she could appear or play a role in any part of the essay.

13. Describe a childhood memory in three simple sentences (i.e., subject-verb-object).

14. Modify a noun with an unlikely adjective. (This is directly from Simmerman’s original.)

15. Refer to yourself by a real nickname someone has given you, in the third person.

16. Make a prediction about a specific year in the future that you think is bold.

17. Interview someone to comment on #3, #4, #8, #9, #14. Use a direct quote or a block quote or dialogue exchange.

18. Using Google or another internet search engine, look up an important word or term from your your essay and either search for the latest news item (Google News) or the “I Feel Lucky” feature. Describe the results without saying you used this feature.

19. Verbify a noun that is not yet verbified. (Examples of nouns turned into verbs: “she medaled in track” or “At karaoke last night, I totally Kanyed the microphone when Carly started to sing.”)

20. Close with an image or a statement that “echoes” 1, 4, 6, 8, 16, 17.

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English 218 Performances of Jonah Winter’s poems

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English 218 Performances of The Incredible Sestina Anthology


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English 218 Sharon Mesmer Performances from Annoying Diabetic Bitch


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English 218 Flarf Poem Performances

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Meeting Schedule for English 494: Internship Fall 2014

Pre-Semester Meetings *

Location: Albertus 114

Friday, April 18: 9-10:30; Bring draft of resume, cover letters. Explanation of requirements of class (rubric). Review of internships opportunities available.

Friday, April 25: 9-10:30; Resume and draft cover letters due.

Friday, May 2: 9-10:30; Approve Resume and Cover Letter; Mock Interviews.


*If you cannot make any of these pre-semester meetings, it is student’s responsibility to present alternate days and times as soon as possible, before the Spring 2014 semester ends.


Semester Meetings**

Location: Albertus 112

Friday, August 29; 9am-10:30am; 9am-10:30am; Learning Contracts edited, approved

Friday, October 17; 9am-10:30am; 9am-10:30am; Midterm Grades given, start Final Portfolio

Friday, November 21; 9am-10:30am; 9am-10:30am; Final Portfolio workshops

**Attendance will be taken for mandatory meetings. Adjust your internship and work schedule accordingly, as you would any other class.


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