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Sentences of Discontent

Someone has to write the next Da Vinci Code, why shouldn’t it be you? To kick-start the writing process, Tobias Seamon brings us a batch of great first lines guaranteed to get your blockbuster off to a best-selling start.

Writing a bestseller isn’t easy. And the most difficult part of any future blockbuster is the opening line. Even the greatest authors have flinched at the fearful expanse of a blank sheet of paper—just ask Plum Sykes! Being charitable souls with a keen interest in the arts and the betterment of our fellow scriveners, The Morning News wants to lend a helping pen by offering, for free, a veritable cornucopia of inspirational first lines to get you off and typing. Watch as the pages fly, agents clamor, and Oprah beckons! If you aren’t completely satisfied, you’ll get your money back, guaranteed. Be the first on your block to write The Michelangelo Code—with one of our first sentences, you’ll only have 3,000 to go!

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—On the sleepless night before her marriage to the youngest of the O’Henry boys, Eileen Quinn looked out her bedroom window and saw a black horse with fiery red eyes standing silently in the center of the village green.

—The fact of the matter was, Pinky Calhoun was scared of weasels and he always would be.

—You are Winston W. Dapper of Dapper, Cringe, Carpe and Plack, Attorneys at Law, and you believe your partners are bent on slowly destroying your reputation for good sportsmanship, but they are not, not even in the slightest.

—Whatever it was, Nancy thought to herself with a frisson of excitement, it sure was big.

—Much the way the Black Death cut a swath through medieval Europe, Handsome Jack Rhubarb left behind him an instantly recognizable trail of marital calamities.

—Everything would have been fine except for Stacey.

—The Grand Hydra of the Serpent Keepers of the Sleezonian Nebula was having a lousy day, and it showed in the lackluster way that he whipped his slithering, many-tongued concubines.

—He built during the day and he built during the night; he used hammers to build and nails to build and sometimes even the blood of his own hands, but build he did, and when he was finished building he stood back, dropped the hammer, and gazed unapologetically at the building he had built.

—Everyone knows it’s the wrong thing to do but I did it anyway.

—Though Joshua Brecht was not normally a superstitious man, he found himself unable to enjoy his breakfast muffin as he told his wife, “Last night I dreamt I placed a bet on a horse named Death.”

—“Fuck you,” she muttered repeatedly, “fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, fuck you.”

—If only you knew the problems farting has caused me.

—John Standish Manley had always believed that even the worst difficulties could be overcome with diligence, patience, and steadfast prayer, but as he lay with both legs broken atop an erupting volcano surrounded by chanting cannibals on the jungle island of Dooty Foobar, he began to wonder if he was wrong.

—There was a dental plan, an eye plan, and an extended-hospital-stay plan, but my new insurance didn’t specify anything regarding assholes.

—The western omelet looked good, but so too did the meat loaf.

—Percy Swinburne was a man to be admired, perhaps even envied, but the day he received Lord Darcy’s offer via an apple basket left on his front steps, he was most especially a man to be feared.

—Shoes were the ruin of young Benjamin’s life.

—Ivan Sergei Shushmayovich was poor, very poor indeed, but every day he stood hopefully outside the little rich girl’s house, a much-chewed pencil in one hand, a rusted mutton cleaver in the other.

—Taking a bite of her sandwich, Rebecca de Cache wasn’t sure if the luncheon meat was ham, so she asked her husband, “Dear, is this ham or just something which tastes like ham?”

—If I told the boy once I told him a thousand times, “A picture is worth a thousand words,” but the dummy never listened, not once.

—The office über-führer was going to be very upset: No matter how many times Ernst Schmutz recounted Reich figures, two were always missing from the latest list of dead babies.

—We never should have given the nine-armed monkeys machine guns.

—Of all of the king’s cows, only Bootsie had magical poop.

—My tongue was somewhere around her belly button when the drugs kicked in.

—Bloodstained and strangely pale, the Emperor Nero scuttled through the tunnels of the Coliseum, hoping his vampiric secret would remain just that as he raced against time and the rising sun.

—Rent boys come and rent boys go, but only Ronny Tilden, one-time king of the Houston ball courts, was on the grassy knoll the day JFK was shot.

—Lying in a puddle of his own blood, Anthony Squeegee realized the chain of betrayal stemmed not from his years in the Mafia along Brooklyn’s waterfront but sometime during his sophomore year at the Rhode Island School of Design.

—I never minded the bulimia or the stealing or even the way she disappeared for days on end with strangers from the art museum, but it was the little herb garden in the window box that finally drove me over the edge.

—I did it all for Stacey, every bit of it, except for the time when I lied—that was personal.

—The plan was perfect, but we were not.

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Tobias Seamon recently published the novella The Fair Grounds. More can be found here. More by Tobias Seamon