Dear General

For those who need a translation, this great writing prompt, or hook to a fabulous first novel, reads “Dear General, I am mailing you five million dollars in this envelope.”  It was composed by one of the BlogLily household’s resident young adult fiction writers, probably when he should have been taking the dog for a walk.

 I found it the other day on the kitchen counter when I was cleaning up the house.  Beyond admiring the way it used our recycling pile to great effect, I was struck by the many different ways one could go after writing this sentence.  I can’t wait to read the rest.

I love writing the first sentences of things.  I am not always so crazy about the next sentence.  Here’s the one that came to me the other day when I was in the shower, “Their hearts broke at the same moment, on the same day, one hundred years apart.”  Oh, if only I knew enough about what people ate and wore and spoke about in 1907, I might actually be able to write the kind of story I love to read, the one about the links between the people in the past and the people in the present. 

For now, I’m going to have to stick to writing stories about women in 2007, something I actually do know about, as long as I keep my eyes and ears open. 


10 thoughts on “Dear General

  1. How wonderful. I hope we get to see more than the first line. Meanwhile, how about a woman in 2007 and someone in 2107? No one knows anything about 2107, so you’d be safe and would get to make up what they wear and eat and speak about.

  2. It is wonderful!

    And I love your 100-years-apart idea. If I read that first sentence I would be hooked and want to keep reading. So I’m hooked… help me out here!

  3. Nova — I wish all the time I could write the books I love to read — there’s something so compelling about the beginning of a story, and so difficult about the way things narrow as you make choices. Maybe I’ll just write first lines the rest of my life, sort of the way people only go on first dates and never get any further.

    U-dad, I have to say, that did not occur to me. Now I’m going to be awake at night wondering — was that a South American General, and do we now have a big drug ring on our hands, or an American General and it’s just a tax collection effort for the debacle in Iraq — or is he making a contribution to the Surgeon General’s effort to stop people smoking? So many questions, so few answers.

    2017! Emily, that is such a fabulous idea. I need you to write that one!

    Hey Cam, That’s it — the beginnings of things are so enticing.

  4. Gosh! Please tell the podkin that he amazes me – Here we spend hours trying to think of good first lines for papers, articles, conversations, and he comes up with one just like that – on a scrap of paper destined for the recycle heap!

    Your first line is great and troubling. There is a whole novel inside it.

  5. Well, being an aficionado of detective and thriller fiction rather than romance, I have to say I like podkin’s line better than yours. But your first line is very intriguing, poetic, and does actually make one want to read on. After all, it could be an action thriller romance. It isn’t really advertising exactly what genre it belongs to like the letter to the General.

    What happened to Little House on the Prairie month? Going so swell, there is nothing to report? Or did it just become impossible. For me, it would be impossible.

  6. i love the actual photo of the piece of paper. it’s very jean-michel basquiat in my mind. a modern artist in your house, using recycled / mixed media.

    “should you find this package empty upon arrival, dear general, i trust you will know what needs to be done.”

  7. I know one thing they ate in 1907, tomato bisque soup. I found a recipe for it in one of my cookbooks, made it, and then posted it. And then it started getting tons of traffic. For months I kept thinking to myself, “Why is this simple recipe for tomato bisque so popular?” Until finally I figured out that it was because people, maybe like you, maybe researching novels that may never be written, were looking up what people ate 100 years ago. I love that, I love the specificity of it, and I love the first line of your theoretical novel. Thanks for sharing Lilly. I should try writing a first line sometimes. It sounds like a fun exercise.

  8. Ann, that is a very, very valuable piece of information. I remember that tomato soup recipe — I didn’t remember, though, that it was something from the early 20th century. And yes, food is another great link with the past. Do write a first line, by the way. How satisfying is that, after all? You don’t have to write the rest if you don’t want to!

    Hello Alison, I love your second line! And the little artist would be thrilled to know he’s working with materials that have been put to such wonderful use by others before him.

    HMH — LHPM? I’ve just posted a last report today. It was hard, because of all the growsing. But actually pretty easy, once you got into the habit of not buying. An action/thriller/romance might be pretty interesting! And the podkin will be thrilled to hear that his first line has enticed a lover of thrillers to whatever might come next.

    Dear Polaris, That is child’s mind for you. One minute, it’s busy creating a world, another minute it’s busy trying to avoid doing its homework.

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