12 Surefire Story Starters: An Introduction

By Joe Blevins

Call me Ishmael.

Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.

There once was a man from Nantucket.

Recognize these phrases? Certainly you do, for these are the opening lines to some of the greatest works of literature in the English language. It is in the tradition of these immortal opening salvos that Mr. Clark and I present our latest project, 12 Surefire Story Starters. Willkommen! Bienvenue!

The origin of this particular endeavor lies with Mr. Clark. Roughly a fortnight ago, he proposed that we each compose a list of twelve possible opening lines for short stories. Once each of us had written a dozen potential openers, we would then exchange lists, and each writer would choose a line from the other writer's list and write a story to accompany it. Here is the list Mr. Clark submitted to me:

1. Martin had grown pretty cavalier about sticking his hand down his pants in public.

2. If Robert knew only one thing, it was that he would never again look upon the face of his beloved cocker spaniel, Trixie.

3. Inexorably, resignedly, languidly, reluctantly, unequivocally, regrettably, Gordon searched in vain for the appropriate adverb with which to begin his story.

4. As long as I live and breath, I shall ne'er forget the Great Bagel Heist of 1923.

5. I never would have believed it if I hadn't seen it with my own feet.

6. The first thing George remembered about his wedding day was waking up to the refreshing scent of cow dung.

7. "If I only knew what was wrong with me, maybe I'd figure out how to turn my life around," said Ronald, who was completely incapable of performing a K-turn.

8. If he ever got out of this alive, Peter swore he'd never mistake a mausoleum for a pet shop again.

9. To say Angela had a glint in her eye would be misleading. More than likely it was just a speck of dust.

10. Robbie looked about as dejected as somebody could while in the throes of an Olympic javelin competition.

11. Ever since he was a child, Larry had been told to live life to the fullest. This is why he weighed 325 pounds.

12. Mark took the edict "divide and conquer" to heart when he divided his raisin bran into piles of raisins and bran flakes and then conquered them.

And here is the list I submitted to Mr. Clark in return:

1. Stars dotted the jet-black sky that night, like cookie crumbs in a fat man's mustache.

2. In retrospect, Dr. Helgenberg reflected sadly, breeding an army of invincible super-scorpions had been a dreadful miscalculation.

3. The trouble all started when Horace Biddlecomb met Mercy Trundlethump at the Annual Pumpkin Day Promenade.

4. "Let's see him solve THIS murder," thought Dr. John H. Watson, as he stepped away from the freshly-stabbed corpse of Sherlock Holmes.

5. Trouble comes in all shapes and sizes, and this particular morning it shimmied through my office door in the form of 5'2" redhead with a body that defied Newton and a noggin full of all the wrong ideas.

6. "I haven't had this much fun since the Beer Hall Putsch," chuckled jolly old Uncle Fritz.

7. Ah, the summer of Aught-Six, a time of love... and root rot.

8. It was halfway through his colonoscopy when Mercer St. Stephens came to a realization that was to affect the entire course of his credit rating.

9. "That is incorrect, and now you shall find out why the game is called Jeopardy," sneered Alex Trebek, releasing the guillotine which decapitated a young systems analyst from Des Moines and signaled the end of Round One.

10. The sun was slowly sinking over Guacamole Mountain when Billy Burrito's bus arrived in Tacotown.

11. The history books will forever record the hours between 2:00 and 3:30 on May 28, 1983 as the Mid-Afternoon of Morris Yakowitz.

12. Pennington's head was like a golf ball -- small, white, round, hollow, and covered with hundreds of perfectly symmetrical dimples.

So now we each have twelve possible opening lines from which to choose, and all that remains is to select one and write a story based upon it. I do hope you will join us here at Unloosen.com on December 15 to see the results. Which will we choose? (Please, no wagering.) Incidentally, should the spirit move you, feel free to use any or all of these 24 "story starters" as the cornerstones of your own literary masterworks. In any event, return here two weeks from now to see the outcome of our labors.

Until that time, I bid you a fond adieu on behalf of myself and Mr. Clark.


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Sounds like an excellent idea. I'd personally love to see some other writers tackle a few of these. If you guys (Joe and Craig) or anyone else know of other writers who'd like to join the pool, let me know by dropping a comment here.

On a side note, I really think you guys are turning out excellent work over the last year or so. The Halloween stories were truly top-notch. I await the result of the December endeavor.

Chris, thanks again for the encouragement. This project is already shaping up as another barn-burner. I even got a chance to burn off a few never-to-be-fleshed-out ideas from the far corners of my mind.

As for bringing other writers into this or other projects, I'd love to. I don't know any personally, but looking at the Fiction category from the menu at the right, I see the names of several erstwhile Pork Pony/Unloosen contributors, including a certain Mr. Chris Leavens who has not submitted any fiction to the site since 2006 (apparently falling off the face of the earth soon after). Perhaps these prodigal sons could be found and tricked into writing something.

I really wish I had the time to put some effort into writing again. I don't want to post something undercooked and I doubt I'd be able to muster the literary power to piece something half-decent together without a good deal of practice. For the time being, I'm going to stick to drawing as it's been going pretty well for me AND paying bills.

I myself am sorely tempted to post something undercooked using one or several of these prime nuggets. First, I need to relearn me some typing skillz, as well as some not-playing-Medal-of-Honor skillz, and also some figuring-out-why-I-can't-log-on-here-anymore skillz.

Chris, you are fully absolved. I hereby grant you a plenary indulgence. Dominus vobiscum.

Alex, I'd love to see you contribute a story to this project -- undercooked, overcooked, raw, whatever.

As for my own contribution, I haven't narrowed it down to which line I'm going to use, and I'm already wondering what Craig will do with the list I gave him.

At the moment I'm roughly four paragraphs into my first attempt at one of them. (I won't tell you which one, though.) I think I might need to let it sit on my head for a couple more days before I know where I'm going with it (or whether I should chuck it and try a different one).

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This page contains a single entry by Joe Blevins published on December 1, 2008 4:44 PM.

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