The lure of the opening phrase

Monday again. No Lit Kid. Trust me when I say that my compulsion to talk about children’s books is not on the wane. It’s just been a very busy week and weekend.

Dan led a trip to a certain brick-building type film yesterday, leaving me the house to myself for a few hours. What normally happens is that I then run around, catching up on housework.

No great change there. But then I decided that I needed some rest – by which I might in fact mean writing. Writing as a way of unwinding. No particular plans about it.

There have been a few times when a phrase or an idea has set in, and I wander off after it, seeing where it goes.

(It’s not all highly literary. One time I wondered what rainglasses would be – as an alternative to sunglasses – and spent a happy half hour finding out.)

I did a bit more of this yesterday. Then a new idea came in, just the opening phrase, and I set off again.

I’m not sure quite why this way of writing is working for me just now. (I’m not putting any pressure on it working for anyone else – barring putting a screen full of words in front of Dan from time to time.)

It may be a little like the writing prompts that you work on because you are part of a class, or an online group, or you’ve paid good money, or the person leading the group is inspirational – or any of the above.

It feels a little different too. It is more like the points at which a character is told to wait in a particular place: maybe in a book, or in a film, in a TV programme. You know the kind.

Of course we know what happens next. A reason comes why they fail to comply.

Maybe they want to be in on the action. Maybe they are too nosey for their own good.
(We also know that not all of these stories work out well for the one waiting.)

Imagine that they are waiting beside a wood. It’s dark in there. You can’t really see where you are going – you certainly can’t see a clear path through it.

The person waiting: they hear something. It’s not their name – it’s not that simple – but what they hear resonates. The words are inside them and outside them, all at the same time.

The words promise: something. It’s not yet clear what. They promise, at least, that words will follow words; perhaps, that the person waiting may follow the words too, and find out where the thread may lead.

Various ideas come to mind when I write this. Some suggest a path that relates to a certain stage in life – one that is anything but a stroll in the woods.

Some suggest a fork in the road. An opportunity to make a choice. The writer of the famous poem is able to look back and see that he took the right road, but at the time we see the alternative road, we don’t know for sure.

It might be the breadcrumbs in the woods approach of Hansel and Gretl. If they are lucky, they will have the earlier escape: the white stones that Hansel has gathered, that shine in the moonlight and guide them back home.

It might be the hope of rediscovering an old path – yet one that the poet tells us was never there in the first place.

I don’t really know where the next phrase will lead. (And I’m not yet abandoning my underwater investigator either. She’ll just have to tread water for a little, that’s all.)

I can only say, for now, that if you are considering entering the woods, an opening phrase may be enough of a guide to begin the journey.

If all else fails, you can write yourself back onto the path again.

I think.

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