My Books

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Beauty in the Desert

The Bible equates the desert with a barren land that God has cursed. And yet when He sends water to bless His people, the land too is blessed. We went for a hike in our desert the other day and found just a few sprinkles of rain bring blooms to a desert land. Stop and think for a moment; now, in this pain filled, cursed world the desert can be a place of enormous beauty. How much more when God blesses His people with rest, and all things are made new from His hand! Take a moment today to imagine God's blessings, and thank Him for the beauty that exists even now.

"The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose. It shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice even with joy and singing: the glory of Lebanon shall be given unto it, the excellency of Carmel and Sharon, they shall see the glory of the LORD, and the excellency of our God.

"Strengthen ye the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees. Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not: behold, your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompence; he will come and save you.

"Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing: for in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert. And the parched ground shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water: in the habitation of dragons, where each lay, shall be grass with reeds and rushes.

"And an highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called The way of holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it; but it shall be for those: the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein. No lion shall be there, nor any ravenous beast shall go up thereon, it shall not be found there; but the redeemed shall walk there: 

"And the ransomed of the LORD shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away." -Isaiah 35

Wednesday, September 17, 2014


I enjoy a book that poses ideas and metaphors, and gives me something I can think about. But after I have read a thoughtful book, my thoughts get a bit muddled until I jot them down; typing up thoughts on a book catches the myriad of ideas sparking around my brain like disconnected fireflies and mashes them into something that can actually give some light. This post is me thinking through Lilith, trying to take the fireflies and turn them into a florescent bulb, like the ones that pop up over a cartoon character when they go, “Aha!” If you have read George McDonald’s phantasmal fantasy book, and loved it so much you really have no plan to change your ideas on his book, I suggest you move on before I raise your ire. I don’t have very many good things to say about the book. If you haven’t read it yet, and are definitely planning on reading it, I suggest you move on before I spoil the surprise. Because there were a good many surprises. And a number of good quotes. And one chapter near the end that was really quite lovely when Lilith finally began her path to redemption. But even that chapter was couched in creepiness and confusion. However, if you want to know more about this remarkable book, read on.

But let me make two short disclaimers before I dive into it. I thoroughly enjoyed George McDonald’s children stories. His Light Princess is one of my favorites, as is The Princess and the Goblin, and the Princess and Curdie. I hope this post doesn’t come out as bashing an author, I only mean to point out his weaknesses. I love the truth, and would hope someone would do the same for me if I ever go wandering off into error. The other short disclaimer is even shorter; I didn’t understand half of this book. So if you have read it, and have a clearer understanding of it, please tell me what it was about! Write me a long comment, and tell me what I missed, and what Mr. McDonald was actually trying to say.


Lilith begins with a ghost story. And it doesn't improve very much as the tale moves on. A phantasmal fantasy is a very good description of this work. It is filled with phantasms. From the first strange person gliding about through closed doors in the library, the eye suddenly looking out of a necklace, a myriad of skeletons in varying states of decay, variations of people dropping dead, or showing up where you know they are not supposed to be, and even a vampire-like ‘white leech’ that was truly nasty… it stayed very similar to a ghost story throughout the work. I don’t like ghost stories. I don’t like phantasms. Only God can make alive, and when something is dead, it is dead. At least in any world except heaven or hell, and stories that divert into heaven or hell should make it clear that that is what is happening. Here throughout the work skeletons live. People die and get up again. Specters float. People show up where you know they cannot be by any law of logic except the bodiless flitting about of the soul. Souls don’t flit unless God sends their bodies with them in the Spirit. Or unless Satan is the one sending them along; there are other powers in the world beside God, people, and those delving into fantasy novels would do well to remember it.

Now to be fair to Lilith, by the end of the book at least I got a faint idea that some of the spectral-showing-up-where-they-oughtn’t-to-be was precisely from Satan; called The Shadow in the story, a rather vague yet frightening thing that I think is supposed to be that dark power. Also to add in a measure of fairness, some of the skeleton parts were used to point out good, fairly Christian ideas, a few of which I even found useful in their thoughtfulness. But that doesn’t clear the work of its downright creepy flavor. From beginning to end it has a sort of spectral horror mixed in and out of it that no Christian ought to be dealing out to readers. If you have a point to make, that is wonderful! I love it when an author manages to include thoughtful, good ideas! But there are thousands of ways you can go about it, and Mr. McDonald took the wrong way. It is a dangerous thing to be mixing with the creepy world that springs directly from the enemy’s camp. And it is a very dangerous thing to be pulling unsuspecting people into that enemy camp by offering them a good story from a ‘Christian viewpoint,’ and then filling it to the brim with the ghostly.

In the work as a whole, another problem arose that fits neatly under the ‘creepy’ heading. There were a lot of analogies drawn and points made throughout Lilith, it was a very thought-evoking metaphoric sort of work. But there was one main overarching point that was obviously supposed to be linked to the Christian idea of death and resurrection. This is decidedly one of my favorite doctrines in the Christian faith. How can it not be? This is our hope, this is what we live for, and what our eyes are focused on when we die; Christ lives, and we will live with Him, and nothing (NOTHING) can every change that. It is powerful. It is beautiful. Creepy? No. When people die, they are dead in this world, and alive with Christ in heaven. That is it. Now, let me explain the metaphor as laid out in Lilith (at least as far as I understood it).

It began close to the beginning with some of the conversations between the main character, Mr. Vain, and a character with many names and surprises, called mostly Mr. Raven. The conversations themselves had confusions and issues that I will get to in a little while, but one of the main things discussed was an idea that you could not understand things rightly until you died. You had to die, to sleep the sleep, before you could live and really begin to understand. This is fairly biblical. There are several passages, passages I love, that deal with the idea of the old man dying so that the new man might live and begin to understand God’s ways and serve Him aright. Romans 6 comes immediately to mind, with many passages on how we are buried with Christ that we might live with him, and the correlation to sin no longer reigning in our bodies and righteousness now being a distinct duty and possibility. So far as that goes, it is biblical and good. A little creepy? Yes. Mr. Vain didn’t understand it at all, and as he was the one telling the story it came out pretty creepy. But at least that I understood for the most part. Well, then we go on a bit and get to another scene; Mr. Raven takes Mr. Vain to his house, where he meets the lovely (though slightly odd) lady of the house, and they offer him the hospitality of their place. “You must sleep” they keep saying, and I’m beginning to go, “Whaaa…?” Then they take him to a coffin shaped door, which when he follows them in he realizes it is a crypt filled with the dead who are ‘sleeping.’ Stone cold people lying all over the place on couches ‘sleeping’ with minute descriptions and many times reiterating that they are dead. Yes, this is getting much, much creepier, and less and less biblical. It’s freezing in the place and Mr. Vain is getting scared. No kidding, I’d be freaking out too, dude. Mr. Raven and his wife point to a couch (very aptly and fully described, I might add) and tell him this is where he must ‘sleep.’ All will wake up when they are ready to wake, which might be tomorrow, or a thousand years from now, but when they are ready they will wake and go their way. But first they must ‘sleep.’ Mr. Vain bolts, and I for one was glad of it, though it was obvious this was not what he was supposed to do. The metaphor is reiterated again and again, it is one of the major themes of the book. Eventually Mr. Vain does ‘sleep the sleep’ and lays down on the couch, where he goes into a kind of animated sleep world that is neither real nor fake, and has several adventures, and it is extremely difficult (impossible, really) to tell what is real and what is a dream.

Is anyone else disturbed by this?! Christianity is not a land of sleeping dreams, or of sleepers at all. Christianity is the world of the AWAKE.

“And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer then when we believed[1].”

“Ye are all the children of the light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober[2].”

There are other passages I could find to drive this home, but these two were ones that just jumped out at me right away. It is not biblical to lie in a sleep like death for years while you grow younger or get well or atone or whatever else you are supposed to be doing in this creepy frozen crypt. We are to be a vigilant, awake people, manning our battle stations and praising our God. This is not biblical, people.

“We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord[3].”

To be dead, for a Christian, is to be present with the Lord. When we die, we do not go into a sort of animated sleep. We go to Christ. When we die we live. Period. There is no intermediate section. And when (as I thought the metaphor was talking about at the beginning of the book) we lay down our old selves to die, it is to become awake IMMEDIATELY. It is not to lie around dreaming of this and that and acting in our sleep. It is to be fully awake for the first time, finally able to live and work for Christ. All I could guess about this strange situation was that it was a kind of soul-sleep, or purgatory, both of which are cultish and not true Christian doctrines. Creepy? You had better believe it. But it is more than that. It is wrong. This is not a Christian teaching. Think about it for a minute; if you win a convert with the idea that he has only to lay down and put his old self to death and then he will exist effortlessly in a kind of dream world until Christ decides he is ‘ready’ (whatever that means) and wakes him up… you have lied to him. Christianity is not an effortless existence where things happen to us in a dream. It is real. And it is hard work. It is a fight, a hard, bloody, sweat-filled, endless fight, until the race is won and we are at once alive with Christ. Are you beginning to glimpse how dangerous and wrong this idea is? And this is one of the major themes (pretty much THE major theme) of Lilith.

The book ends (ends, mind you) with this quote; “Novalis says, ‘Our life is no dream, but it should and will perhaps become one.’” I firmly believe, with all my heart and hope, and Scripture to back me up, that my life is no dream and will only become more real as Christ draws me on and makes me more like Himself.

Just one more thought on this particular idea. If Mr. McDonald wanted a creepy Christian metaphor to go along with the rest of the creepy flavor of his book, he could have picked one. How about this soundly biblical idea; we are dead until Christ makes us alive through regeneration. The unconverted are walking, talking, breathing dead. They are the real zombies. Acting for Satan, unable to fully change without the Spirit’s enabling power, they are dead corpses. But then the Spirit breathes on a man, and suddenly he is alive. Made complete, and whole, he is alive and can suddenly see with spiritual eyes. How’s that for creepy? But it is a sound biblical metaphor, and would have been real and much more powerful then this bizarre soul-sleep existence of Lilith. Especially with the excellent way George McDonald forms his prose and draws a reader in while stating ideas that anyone else would make exceedingly dull. He could have made a real, biblical, Christian impact with creepy zombies, if he was trying to go for creepy. (DISCLAIMER: I am not advocating a Christian zombie book. Zombies are voodoo and anything but Christian. Don’t write one.)

SPOILER ALERT: skip to the next point if you think you will ever read Lilith.

Mr. Raven (aka The Librarian, the Sexton, ect.) is revealed as Adam a little over halfway through the work. Yes, the Adam from the beginning of the world. We also learn that this nasty character Lilith (aka The Princess, the White Leech, ect.) was Adam’s first wife. She went after power, or something (I didn’t really get the explanation of it to be perfectly frank), and then God gave Adam his second wife Eve, who was human. Wait, what? Ok, this raises about a hundred little red flags. I will only point out a few here.

Why is Adam flitting around from world to world, walking through closed doors and looking out of jewels in necklaces? It is never explained. He ought to be firmly and happily ensconced in heaven. But by that point I was getting used to the unexplained oddities of the book and just sort of shrugged my shoulders to the idea of Adam changing periodically into a raven and tending a vast burial ground that seems to stretch all over several worlds.

Then we have the strange implied thought that Adam was around for who knows how many ages before Eve showed up, and was married to someone who was not human. This implies the idea that Adam himself is not really human. So what is he supposed to be?!  

But the real issue is more simple, and more harmful. Lilith is alive, and so is Eve. This means, at best, that there is divorce and remarriage before the fall of the world. No. A hundred times no! God made one man for one woman, and the world was perfect at that point. There was no sin. There was no imperfection or sadness. Do you think divorce is a painless, perfect thing? I should hope anyone reading this knows better. I have no idea what George McDonald was thinking to make this the plotline of his book. Why make it Adam and Eve at all, it could have been Jubal-Cane, or some other obscure Old Testament person that no one knows about and he could invent whatever he wanted! No, this is taking a real historical couple and twisting it into something that never was, and that God certainly would never have condoned before the fall. We have a real historical record of Adam and Eve. We know how they were created, we know they were created for each other, and for God’s glory. And we know what happened after that. To add in a whole new set of nasty, bizarre, hazy circumstances is a simple lie to his readers. And it isn’t a particularly white one either.

So now you know quite a few serious faults with Lilith. But there is one more that really got to me more than any of them. It was an existential flavor combined with serious reality-shifting, made alive by truly well-written prose that drew you in and made it seem real.

Probably the best way to describe this for you is to explain the feeling I had whenever I would put the book down after a fairly prolonged period of reading. I had the urge to go touch a piano or chair and feel the solid wood under my fingers, just to assure myself it was real.

In Lilith, the beginning is fairly mundane and solid. It opens with a young man reading in his library, and gives a few descriptions of his personality and habits. Then this old scrawny librarian, with features that remind one of a kind of bird, and who apparently showed up on occasion in the young man’s great grandfather’s time, begins to walk about the library; including though solidly closed up doors. Well, Mr. Vane follows him on one occasion, and finds an old garret with a mirror that reflects different light then the rest of the room, and walks through the mirror into another world. So far it is very strange, but just kind of like a lot of odd fantasy books. But then things begin to happen. In one of the early conversations with this librarian (who turns into a raven on occasion) we find that Mr. Vain no longer remembers who he is. He says he, “did not know myself, did not know what I was, had no grounds on which to determine that I was one and not another.” A little later he states the raven, “saw through accident into entity.” The conversation goes on like this;

“Calling me a raven, or thinking me one, you allowed me existence, which is the sum of what one can demand of his fellow beings. Therefore in return, I will give you a lesson: - No one can say he is himself, until first he knows that he is, and then what himself is. In fact, nobody is himself, and himself is nobody.”

Here’s another quote for you; “Existence precedes essence.” Know who said that? Jean Paul Sarte, the premier existentialist, and it is what Mr. Raven and Mr. Vane are discussing. Now Mr. McDonald valiantly tries to tie this in with an unbeliever’s sort of ‘waking up’ into realizing who he is in Christ, and who God created him to be, versus who he is when he is just sort of existing on his own devices. But that does not cure this of being pure existentialism. And it is not a single occurrence in this book, it is intertwined with many conversations and happenings and ideas within the pages of this work. Don’t get me wrong, there is a distinct Christian flavor in parts of Lilith. The chapter near the end where Lilith finally gives in and begins to repent and be redeemed is really very lovely (though still a little creepy at parts) and gave me the pretty solid idea that I will meet George McDonald in heaven. But the existential flavor throughout the book is just as strong, or even stronger.

And then there’s the reality-shifting. I haven’t made a great study of existentialism so don’t take this as definite fact, but I believe there is an idea contained in it that things are not always as they seem and laws and logic and such like are sort available for us to create with them what we wish. In any case, whether Mr. McDonald gets this from his existential leanings or from somewhere else, there is a definite toying with the way God made creation. Mr. Vain wanders out into the garden and suddenly finds he is not in his garden, he is in another world. He strolls about in this new place, and finds Mr. Raven in his raven form digging up worms and throwing them in the sky where they become butterflies. (Quick anacoluthon; as I understood it, this was actually an interesting metaphorical relation to sinners [worms] becoming more then they are when made new by Christ [butterflies] and had a few good lines to it; though it was still bizarre.) Mr. Vain talks a little and keeps strolling about. He passes a rose bush at one point, and Mr. Raven calmly informs him this is actually his piano in the other world. The cook’s daughter is playing on it, and if he listens closely, he can hear some of the music. Mr. Vain duly leans forwards and hears a little strain of music from the rose bush… or piano… or whatever the thing actually is, at this point we really don’t know.  Such things happen from time to time. A little later in the book, The Princess asks Mr. Vain to climb a palm tree and pick her the flower at the top. He begins to climb it, and the scene begins to get wilder and scarier, and suddenly he is drowning, and then he manages to scramble out of his fountain in his back garden. Somewhere in between starting to climb a palm tree and getting to the top, the thing becomes a fountain spraying water and nearly kills him. The implication is that a thing you think is one thing might be something else entirely in another world AT THE SAME TIME. So how are you to know you are looking at a piano and not a rosebush?! Maybe it’s my practical German strain coming out, but this really disturbed me. A thing is what it is. A bookshelf is a bookshelf. I can put my book on it and it stays sitting on the solid wood until I move it. A flower is a flower. It produces seeds after its own kind and grows more flowers. A piano is a piece of wood and strings and ivory that makes beautiful music in the hands of some, and loud discordant plunking noises in the hands of a three year old. And the three year old doesn’t suddenly scream that they have been pricked by a rose thorn when they thought they were playing the piano.

Yes, the Bible clearly states that here we see things 'as through a glass darkly' and we will see things differently when we are made new. But God made the world real. He made the laws of logic, and instilled gravity and the other laws of nature into all of the universe. He is a God who loves order. Just read a science textbook, or go take a walk in a meadow and touch a few of the different substances (grass, tree bark, flowers, water, dirt). It is always the same. It doesn’t shift or change or exist somewhere else as something else.

Several times while reading through this book, I sat it down and thanked God that reality was the solid, real thing He made it; and not the shifting, uncertain, creepy, dreaming thing of Lilith.

[1] Romans 13:11
[2] 1 Thessalonians 5:6-7
[3] 2 Corinthians 5:8

Wednesday, September 10, 2014


National Novel Writer's Month,that exciting time when you create a 50,000 word novel in 30 days, is creeping up on us. Like a friend waiting to jump out of the closet and enclose me in a bear hug, with a hold strong enough that it keeps me from doing much of anything else for the duration of November.

This year, I am going to attempt a book titled Dreaded King. When created, it will be a Christian fantasy. But before you get all excited over wizards and spells and whatnot, those who know me best can tell you I am rather repelled by the more phantasmal fantasies out there. I prefer my books without witchcraft, or those who practice magic of any sort, and am quite happy with more normal settings. So far the strangest thing I am planning on including in my next novel are dragons. Fire breathing dragons, of the normal sort. Except these are about sheep sized and pose the most problems for farmers, as they are omnivores who tend to go after the livestock and vegetables, and spit a rather mean bit of fire if you startle them. They are shy beasties, but I decided to get close enough to one to try and draw a picture of it.

This is my setting in which to work.

Behold, my resident muses. Beatrice is the red corgi, and Lynette, vulpes of ebony, is my 10 month old puppy staring at the camera phone with that awkward wolfish glare. The stool (which I am using as a table for purposes of sketching, as it has a wonderful influence on the creative juices) is Matilda. Matty is the perfect stool. There is no other stool as good. She is superlative at her job.

A blank drawing paper is almost as imposing as a blank word document just before you write the first sentence of a new book. But the first little line with a pen is very exciting. And a little unnerving as my drawing skills are extremely lacking. A picture never turns out as I have it pictured in my head. Rather like a story never turns out exactly like I have it planned when I begin. There is an element of freewill in all characters in a novel; they will do what they will, and sometimes it is nearly impossible to stop them. But with my drawings, it is a simple lack of skill that tends to make them turn into blobs instead of masterpieces.

But I did have help in Matilda and Lynette. Here are our three feet, all consolidated together in a collective comradely attempt to cheer me on. Lynette is fond of feet. She loves to sleep on mine, though she isn't quite as enthused when someone tries to return the favor and sleep on hers. I am fond of her furry head on my foot, and never send her away. There is something that warms the soul as well as the skin in a good dog's voluntary presence.

She stayed throughout, which is the only reason this picture had any resemblance to a picture and not a blob. Though it is still has its blobbish moments, do what I would to try and conceal them. I console myself with the knowledge I can draw an entirely different picture to include in Dreaded King and am not obligated to keep this one. But the process of creating it was enjoyable. Especially with the furry muses. If they persist in their fuzzy presence, I anticipate an astounding November!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

First Lines

“Here is Edward Bear, coming downstairs now, bump, bump, bump, on the back of his head, behind Christopher Robin[1].”

“Don’t judge a book by its cover,” everyone says. But what about its first line? The first line is what makes me decide to go on or put it down and reach for another book. If the first line is really a smashing good line, I decide to savor the words, and don’t go on to my usual step two in looking over a new book; skimming over the first paragraph to see if it gets interesting later. Of course the older authors often deleted the second step by the simple act of making their first line the first paragraph.  

“Squire Trelawney, Dr. Livesey, and the rest of these gentlemen having asked me to write down the whole particulars about Treasure Island, from the beginning to the end, keeping nothing back but the bearings of the island, and that because there is still treasure not yet lifted, I take up my pen in the year of grace 17-, and go back to the time when my father kept the ‘Admiral Benbow’ inn, and the brown old seaman, with the sabre cut, fist took up his lodging under our roof[2].”

I love books. I adore good books. Today I decided to pull a stack of a few favorites off my shelf and look at the first lines of each. See how many you know.

“Thirty years ago, Marseilles lay burning in the sun, one day[3].”  

They are all so different! But each one has the distinct flavor of the book. It sets a scene, and a feeling, and informs you what to expect if you do go on. A good first line tends to excite me, even if it is not an exciting kind of book, because it means I have a new story to devour.

“On the 26th of July, 1864, a magnificent yacht was steaming along the North Channel at full speed, with a strong breeze blowing from the N. E.[4]

From that, we know this is going to be a book where we get lots of boring, needless information like dates and which way the wind is blowing. But we also know it is going to be a book about traveling, and ships, and we will probably learn something we didn’t know. That sounds like a treat!

“Once upon a time, long ago, near the Land of Stories, lived young Tom Trueheart[5].”

I hear a deliberately old fashioned opening, a mention of stories, and a good name. Yes, I am hooked to read on. I don't learn much from this first line, but I am interested nonetheless. Sometimes a first line can bring up simple interest to see what the story is about, or sometimes it can bring a smile, and a desire to find more smiles along the way.

“While I would not go so far, perhaps, as to describe the heart as actually leaden, I must confess that on the eve of starting to do my bit of time at Deverill Hall I was definitely short on chirpiness[6].”

First lines give you an idea of what you are getting into. But after you have gotten into them, the first line of a book you have loved for years feels like the hug of an old friend. It elicits the same delightful hominess and expectation of fun times ahead as it rolls over your tongue.

“Once there were four children whose names were Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy[7].”

It feels so warm and right after you already love the book. And the books you loved as a child are in an entirely different category. Those stories you read over, and over, in between skinning your knees and eating popsicles, bring an automatic smile to your face and a little spark to your eye.

“In merry England in the time of old, when good King Henry the Second ruled the land, there lived within the green glades of Sherwood Forest, near Nottingham Town, a famous outlaw whose name was Robin Hood[8].”

The first line of a well-loved book has the power to transport you back to the last time you read it. Yes, time travel is perfectly possible, just so long as you use the confines of your own mind and a good book. Curl up in a chair and you can go anywhere, they say, and they are right. But you don’t always know where you’re going when you begin the journey.

“The Jebel es Zubleh is a mountain fifty miles and more in length, and is so narrow that its tracery on the map give it a likeness to a caterpillar crawling from the south to the north[9].”

I would never guess I could be taken from a boring, strange mountain to beholding my Savior in all His saving might through another man’s eyes. But that is exactly what happens. And I wouldn’t have it begin any other way. A book has the power to send us on adventures that we would hope never to actually get into ourselves. And part of the fun is trying to guess from that first tiny tid-bit in the first line where it is taking us.

“’If you were a genuine Army Colonel,’ Pilgrim said, ‘Instead of one of the most bogus and unconvincing frauds I’ve ever seen, you’d rate three stars for this[10].”

A first line is a powerful thing. It darts out of a book and wraps around your mind. If you dare to crack a book open and look at the first chapter, you will read the first line. And then what will you find? Is it adventure, humor, a simple fact, or a feeling that is suddenly transplanted from the page directly into you? Whatever it may be, once read it is a part of you, and there is nothing you can do to get rid of it.

“The Master was walking most unsteady, his legs tripping each other[11].”

Be careful cracking open the cover of a book, because you never know what that first line might be. And be careful, the next time you are sitting with a blank white sheet in front of you and considering starting your next story; the first line written will be the first line read. A silly thing to say? It is until you think about what a first line is capable of. It can either draw a reader in, or make them yawn and push your volume away.

“A wind sprang high in the west like a wave of unreasonable happiness and tore eastward across England, trailing with it the frosty scent of forests and the cold intoxication of the sea[12].”

Take a moment to read a first line on its own and see what it does. It is a story starter, a scene setter, an emotion evoker, and a crooked finger whispering ‘come closer and read on.’ Kind of creepy? Then stop thinking about it, and just read on. But if you are trying to write a story, do stop and think about it. And then go reread your first line, and let it do for you what it will do for your readers.

“This is the story of what a Woman’s patience can endure, and what a Man’s resolution can achieve[13].”

And then you have a whole different category of books, those that begin, and you plug away through the dull parts on into the actual story, and then come back and look it over, and feel cheated as you realize the line which got you into this thing in the first place, really had nothing whatever to do with the story itself.

“In 1815, M. Charles Francois-Bienvenu Myriel was Bishop of D-[14].”  

But it is possible to forgive such a beginning if the story turns out to be good despite it. But in general, first lines are beautiful and exciting because they begin a journey and usher you in to someone else’s words, and even mind. Each author has a perspective different then you, and each story reflects that. And each first line is the beginning point, and a place for you to notice something new.

“So. The Spear-Danes in days gone by / and the kings who ruled them had courage and greatness[15].”

Now pick up a book and notice something. Put down Pintarest and the T.V. remote, and go read a book. Because you might just find a new favorite, and you might find a first line that will change your life. Don’t think it’s possible for one little first sentence to change your life? Dare to believe otherwise. I will leave you with one more first line, and let you draw your own conclusions;

“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth[16].”  

[1] A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh
[2] Robert Louis Stevenson, Treasure Island
[3] Charles Dickens, Little Dorrit
[4] Jules Verne, In Search of the Castaways
[5] Ian Beck, The Secret History of Tom Trueheart
[6] P.G. Wodehouse, The Mating Season
[7] C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
[8] Howard Pyle, The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood
[9] Lew Wallace, Ben-Hur
[10] Alistair MacLean, Circus
[11] Richard Harding Davis, The Bar Sinister
[12] G.K. Chesterton, Manalive
[13] Wilkie Collins, The Woman in White
[14] Victor Hugo, Les Miserables
[15] Translated by Seamus Heaney, Beowulf
[16] Holy men taught by the Holy Spirit, Genesis 1:1