Using Great First Lines from Literature to Create Your Own Story

Kim Stafford, a writer-poet who also is founding director of the Northwest Writing Institute at Lewis & Clark College in Oregon, wrote a wonderful essay for Teachers & Writers Magazine in which he suggests that writers searching for writing ideas consider using the first line of their favorite book or poem as a way to start their writing.  Let the first line of a favorite book stimulate your imagination to create your own story.

He gives these first lines as some examples:

.”I read about it in the paper, in the subway, on my way to work.” (This first line came from ”’Sonny’s Blues” by James Baldwin.)

.”There was a woman who was beautiful, who started with all the advantages, yet she had no luck.” (This first line is from ”The Rocking Horse Winner” by D.H. Lawrence.)

.”The grandmother didn’t want to go to Florida.” (This first line came from ”A Good Man Is Hard to Find” by Flannery O’Conner.)

Stafford offers a stimulating idea to help us in our search for things to consider writing about.  Why not try it out, starting with one of your favorite first lines from a novel or poem?

Using the Words ”I Remember…” to Capture A Memory

Joe Brainard, a poet, wrote a book about his life titled ”I Remember” in which he started each sentence with the phrase, ”I remember…” and then wrote a sentence or two about a memory.

Examples are: “I remember ‘Love Me Tender” and “I remember ‘Payday’ candy bars and eating the peanuts off first then eating the center part”  and “I remember ‘Spam.”’  The words, ”I remember” are a way of searching in our memories to see some of the things that make up our lives and history.

Why not use the ”I remember” prompt to highlight some of the things you remember in your life — they can be light things, important things, surprising things that tell about your own life and interests.   Write one or two ”I remember” sentences each day to see if you can develop a book about your own life of memories.

If you wish, you can create a comic strip at MakeBeliefsComix.com where you choose a character to represent you and talk about the things you remember in his or her comic strip.

Create An Autobiographical Comic Strip with MakeBeliefsComix

At the beginning of each new school term have your students use MakeBeliefsComix.com to create autobiographical comic strips talking about themselves and their families or summarizing important things about their lives to help a teacher or fellow student learn more about them.

Let each student select a cartoon character as a surrogate to represent her- or himself. In their comic they can talk about their dreams, their goals, a happy or sad memory, and about their family members. What are they most proud of?

Or, let the comic character they choose to represent them talk about their favorite music or book or author. What new thing did they learn or do this summer? Which new friend did they make? What new idea came into their head? Those students who are immigrants might want to talk about where they came from and about their families; they can talk about the opportunities and problems of being in the United States.

After students complete their comic strips, print them out and encourage them to exchange their comics with classmates so they can learn more about each other. You may want to place these on the class bulletin board.

These autobiographical comic strips can even become the opening pages of a daily comix diary that students can be encouraged to keep throughout the school year. See Take Our Daily Comix Diary Challenge! at https://www.makebeliefscomix.com/daily-comic-diary/

Looking for Summer Fun: Download Our Free E-Book, ”MakeBeliefsComix FILL-ins”

You supply the words to complete this book! This do-it-yourself comic e-book, MakeBeliefsComix FILL-ins,”  provides a place where you can give MakeBeliefsComix characters your own words and thoughts.  In this comic book, unlike any others you’ve read, you’ll get to decide what happens and have the final say.  All you need to do is just follow the prompts and fill in the talk and thought balloons to determine what characters say and think.

This book is formatted as an interactive digital journal diary. It will allow you to write directly on your screen into the areas with lines on each of the book’s pages. When you are done typing, simply save the document until the next time you are inspired to make new entries. 

Go to https://www.makebeliefscomix.com/e-books-apps/ ; then click on the book’s cover to download. Have fun!

Use Your Mobile to Send Messages from MakeBeliefsComix to Friends Who Are Away

If you’re a mobile phone user you can keep in touch during the summer with your geographically scattered friends and family members by using your mobile device to regularly send them comic strips created at MakeBeliefsComix about something fun you did,  or share with them the latest gossip or the latest news in the form of a comic.   Tell your boy or girl friend a funny story in the form of a special comic you create for them on your mobile. Or, from your mobile send a comic to a relative who needs some cheering-up and would love to hear from you.

 

Something to Draw About: Enter the First Annual Cartoonist Contest of MakeBeliefsComix.com

Many of you have asked for new cartoon characters for MakeBeliefsComix.com.   So, how about sending us your ideas for new ones? We’d love to see your drawings of the characters you have created. (If you can’t draw, you can send in your written ideas, too.) Draw a character who you think is missing from our diverse cast of characters. They can be superheroes, evil-doers, animal types, historic figures, people who look like you and your friends, figments of your imagination. Each of the existing characters on our site are shown in four ways with different emotions – happy, sad, angry, worried – so please submit four versions of each character whom you create showing these emotions. If you give us permission with your submission, we’ll post the best of the cartoons on our Gallery page. And, if things go well and we have your approval, we’ll consider adding a version of your character to our permanent cast of characters. Send PDFs of your artwork, as well as written text, to billz@makebeliefscomix.com, or mail to: Bill Zimmerman, MakeBeliefsComix, 201 West 77 Street, New York, NY 10024.