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Saturday, April 30, 2011

Opening Lines of The Faery Reel, from Erika

Here with a guest post for us is Erika of 100 Stars or Less and The One A Day Y.A. Project!
Take it away, Erika!

First of all, I want to thank Misty and Ashley for having me here doing a guest post for their fabulous Fairy Tale Fortnight event. I have been looking forward to this for a while so it's an honour.

Now I want to talk to you all about something that interests me very much - opening lines. The interest is very much there for every story I pick up, but since this is Fairy Tale Fortnight and not just any fortnight, I thought I'd take it into the realm of fairy/fae tales. Then what just happens to be sitting on my shelf? Why it's The Faery Reel: Tales from the Twilight Realm, an anthology of short stories from authors such as Holly Black, Neil Gaiman, Gregory Maguire, and much more.

I have to admit, I was very much drawn into this book because of the amazing illustrations heading each and every short story. Not to mention the gorgeous cover page. If there is a "school of thought" on the issue, I'm of the type that believes all fairy tales should come with amazing pictures to drool over bring the story that much more to life. Charles Vess is a genius.

But to get to the point - opening lines...

I believe opening lines are very important in any story but possibly, they are just more important than ever when you are considering both fairy tale retellings, and short stories. Fairy tales are not just bedtime stories, not just fun tales to tell your children or to read when you are trying to remember the "good old times". They are also classics. And the opening lines to these tales are also classics. Who can't recite one of the most used, most memorable opening line off the top of their head?

"Once upon a time..."

Not to mention the great and honourable runner-ups:

"A long time ago..." 
"In the beginning..."

So how does an author re-telling or making their own fairy tales compete with that? And as a reader, does it have to be something quite special? Do you have to be wowed, does it have to feel nostalgic, or do you simply want to be drawn into the story the same way you'd want to be drawn into any story?

 In my own experience, I felt like maybe knowing these stories were supposed to be fairy tales had ruined them just a tad for me. Because I have fuzzy memories of reading other tales before bedtime, of watching Disney movies with my sister and best friends based off fairy tales, of pretending to have the grand adventures that these stories promise every little girl. And these stories just weren't that. Reading alone in your basement on a (self-imposed) deadline just isn't the same. Even if you do throw in a hot cup of cocoa.

 The opening lines I thought, were good. Well thought out, and would have pulled me into the story. As not only fairy tales, but short stories I think this is very important. A short story doesn't have the benefit of introducing a reader to the world and characters like a novel does. There is very little time to pull the reader in and move on. And as a reader, I know I'm a bit fidgety when it comes to short story collections. I don't have to read them all in order of course, so if something doesn't grab at me right away, I'll just move on the next story and come back to that one later. But I don't want to jump around. I want to be pulled in by each and every one of them as they come. It just makes the collection as a whole feel that much better when this is possible. Opening lines in short stories...definitely important!

I would have liked this book. IF they weren't fairy tales, I might have actually been able to read them, enjoy them, and tell you all about the wonderful writing in the pages between the book. Sadly, I could not. Maybe... hopefully...in the future I will be able to love these amazing retelling like many of the other readers out there.

And for the moment I can give you all a taste of some of these opening lines, and if you aren't quite as nostalgic about your fairy tales as I seemed to be, please consider seeking out this book and reading them for yourselves.

by Patricia A. McKillip

"All my sisters caught mortals that way. I have more sisters than I can count. It's easy, they told me. And when you get tired of them you just let them go."

by Gregory Maguire

"Though the sky was a peerless blue, there had been thunder since dawn. Low thunder, leaving an acrid odor of twists of gray gauze that the wind pushed across the fields."

by Ellen Steiber

"Oh great. I've pissed off the faeries."

by Katherine Vas

"Papa sobs every night when he thinks I'm asleep. Especially during a storm, when the rain bangs on our roof, like a bill collector demanding to be let in."

Thanks once again to Misty and Ashley for having here during Fairy Tale Fortnight. If you'd like to come check out either of my blogs, you can find me at One A Day Y.A.: Playing with Books and 100 Stars or Less.

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