Opening Lines with Mary Robinette Kowal

Opening lines do important work in storytelling. When you reach the end of a story, an opening line may read completely different than it did when you began, because the story has changed its meaning. An opening line may be a hook, a light in the darkness, a way forward.

I try to take a picture of the eerie.  (The Passenger, Emily Lundgren)

She came out of the peat like a sixpence in a barmbrack, her face shining like wet iron between the spade-edge and the turf, the bright rusty plait of her hair broken like a birth-cord around her neck. (The Creeping Influences, Sonya Taaffe)

He descended on the town like a saint sent from Dark Heaven six-guns shining like twin torches in his hands, down to the border where we had our battle on.  (Salamander Six-Guns, Martin Cahill)

It’s Midsummer’s Eve, and even this close to midnight there’s no darkness, only a long, translucent dusk that will eventually slip into dawn. (Hare’s Breath, Maria Haskins)

As part of our final issue ever (!), we solicited some authors who were there in the beginning. Mary Robinette Kowal was Shimmer‘s art director when the magazine started, and though she’s gone on to much greener pastures (her science fiction debut,The Calculating Stars, came out just last week!), she also published with Shimmer last year.

We invited Mary to be part of the final Shimmer and she suggested we turn part of her story over to you, the readers.

Comment on this post with a killer opening line to a story you’d like Mary to write.  Beth and I will go over all the entries, and pick a winner, which Mary will then write a story for.

Comments open until JULY 20. Beth and I will vote that weekend, and announce a winner on JULY 23.

And in November, you can read Mary’s story in the final issue of Shimmer!

Note: Many of you are submitting whole paragraphs and not a single opening line. We are not approving these. Thank you!

68 thoughts on “Opening Lines with Mary Robinette Kowal”

  1. We set the town square on fire at midnight and disappeared into the nearest alley, trailing sparks like an overlong cloak.

  2. I had heard death and taxes were inevitable, but I never expected the same person to be collecting both.

  3. While Anne wasn’t required to acknowledge her indebtedness to the Mosquito Posse, their tiny joyful cries notwithstanding, or thank the transparent Guinness sisters, standing now like three glass vases against the fleur-de-lis wallpaper of the dining room, she felt it imperative to whisper something gracious in the ear of Grandma Foster, who’d been her gunslinger over the last perilous week in Carnalwood City.

  4. “If you burn this town,” she said, “I will spend all the days down through eternity exacting a long and perfect vengeance upon you, and you will come to know a wrath so terrible and pure your ancestors’ bones will tremble in the dusty ground that once was the land you held dear.”

  5. Transforming a human into a vividocument is easy, as all exquisitely repeatable tortures invented by the diplomatic corps are easy for everyone except the victim.

  6. She shivered when the underwater lightning below the ship revealed the silhouettes of the creatures.

  7. /Big black bugs bleed black blood/ the maid, who had long given up on her ill-fated acting aspirations, scoffed as she wiped at the thick, silver ooze that stuck between the tiles of the floor. /Of course even the bugs here would bleed beautifully./

  8. The stack of thrift store self-help books all told her to let go of her anger, but you don’t tell a drowning man to let go of his lifeline.

  9. I don’t need to dowse to know that magic falls off steeply here; it’s apparent in the bluff of red, rocky soil, the great iron-ore blanket cast off of a shattered dragon. 

  10. While not entirely unexpected, it was still a surprise for some to find a badger equipped with such staggering quantities of enriched uranium.

  11. On sober reflection, in the light of the last of days, it might have been better for all concerned had I followed the path MORE travelled.

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