If you’re a procrastinator like me, you were/are reading the book right up to the discussion forum. Here at the TGS Writers’ Book Club, we have a little more flexibility, but don’t put off finishing this month’s selection for too long. The discussion forum for Sing, Unburied, Sing opens today and will remain open until May 30th. Since this is the first time I’ve done this, things might get a little goofy, but we’ll try it out.
That there will be spoilers is, if you have not read the book, a given.
In the next two weeks, I’ll put up more discussion posts. Today’s discussion focuses on opening lines. Following that, we’ll talk about plot, point of view, literary devices, and other elements of writing. Each subsequent discussion will contain links to the other forums related to the work. You can join in whenever you want. The goal is to combine our perspectives as writers and to learn something that will inform our own writing.
June’s reading is a poetry collection called Afterland by Mai Der Vang. I’ve never analyzed poetry from a writing perspective, so I hope we have some poets who can chime in.
Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward: Opening Lines
I like to think I know what death is. I like to think that it’s something I could look at straight.
I’ve read these lines several times, thinking about what it does. As an opener, it establishes the voice and because of its dramatic tone, the reader is immediately in the story. It also serves as a foreshadowing of the event later in the chapter as well as some of the themes in the novel.
A problem I often have as a writer is making the voice seem realistic, especially when it comes from someone young. I wrote from the voice of a 14-year-old in one of the scenes in my novel and the immediate feedback was that he didn’t sound like a 14-year-old. I made him sound too mature. In this novel, the opening voice is Jojo, a 13-year-old boy who assumes some responsibility for the care of his little sister.
When I think of opening lines, one of my favorites is from Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier: Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again. This line, in and of itself, creates questions in the reader, already making them want to know what happened at Manderley. By the end of the book, it is a haunting refrain. The more I think about the opening lines to Sing, Unburied, Sing and how they tie into the rest of the novel, I think they might be lines I remember as well.
Possible Discussion Questions:
What did you think of the opening lines to Sing, Unburied, Sing?
What kind of person did you imagine saying them?
What is one of your favorite opening lines?
Do you struggle with opening lines to your novels, stories, or poems?
Resources for Opening Lines: