Monday, January 14, 2008

And the award for best line in a supporting role goes to ...

Great opening lines are a frequent topic of discussion, and understandably so. They set a story's tone, they draw in the reader, they set the bar high for the author.

But what about those less conspicuous lines and set-ups that maintain the tone once it has been set? These may not open a story or occur at its climax or some moment of high suspense, but they are the ... well, choose your construction metaphor: the mortar or the bricks or the long-lasting aluminum siding. They contribute to the overall impression without necessarily being the lines you'll repeat to a friend the next day.

I've been reading more of Eoin Colfer's books, which abound in lines of that sort. I'll give you a few, then I'll ask you for some of your own. In Artemis Fowl: The Opal Deception, the Opal of the title is an evil genius who lies in a coma in a private psychological clinic run by one Dr. Jerbal "Jerry" Argon. You know what the makes his clinic, don't you?: The J. Argon Clinic. Say it fast, only don't say it if there's a psychologist around. He or she may not have a sense of humor.

And here's a description from a story in The Artemis Fowl Files:

"Mulch found burglary much more suited to his personality than mining. The hours were shorter, the risks were less severe, and the precious metals and stones that he took from the Mud Men were already processed, forged and polished."
The character has already been established; this is just a way of embellishing him in an entertaining fashion. And that, I'd say, is one characteristic of a good storyteller.

Now, readers, it's your turn. Think about the book you're reading now. Think about its mood or tone. Then pick a line or two that, in a modest, inconspicuous way, helps create that tone.

© Peter Rozovsky 2008

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Eoin Colfer is one of my favorite authors. ^^

January 15, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Thanks for checking in.

He's become one of mine, as well. I never knew he wrote for young readers until after I'd read a short story of his in the Dublin Noir collection, liked it, looked for more by him, and found that all his other writing was for "young adults." I was disappointed at first, but then I started reading, Half Moon Investigations, then all the Artemis Fowl books. The man is funny, and he knows how to tell a story. Those talents can appeal to readers of any age.

January 15, 2008  

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