I'm putting on my writer's craft hat today. Yesterday I watched a movie with my youngest daughter (who's having a birthday today!) that made me start thinking about "tone."
The movie was Dragonheart with Dennis Quaid and Sean Connery. With two A-listers like that you'd expect a well-told tale. Not so much.
The problem was that the director couldn't decide if the story was a comedy or a tragedy. And it descended pretty sadly into farce worthy of the Three Stooges at times.
A steady diet of nothing but drama gets depressing and I'm totally in favor of a few light-hearted moments to break the tension (like Twilight's baseball playing vamps.) Likewise a comedy needs at least one serious "moment of truth" scene (a la Jim Carey in "Liar, Liar" when he tells his son he loves him.) But the storyteller needs to make sure he/she doesn't give her audience/reader whiplash when the switch is made.
How do we do that? By setting the "tone" of a piece and sticking to it.
If the story starts with elegant word choices, your comedy is going to be in the form of witty repartee, not a food fight. If your hero and heroine are dramatic, the quirky secondary character can carry comedy ball without making your reader blink twice (like the little monk in Van Helsing.) If the story starts with madcap comedy, slow the pace down with seriousness only when your H/h has their big "a-ha!" moment.
Basically, how you start is how you should finish. While maintaining the same flavor throughout the story.
Which brings me to to that all important first line. Bet you could quote a few that have stayed with you. Here are a few of mine:
Call me Ishmael. (Moby Dick) In just three words, we know the story is going to deal with themes of biblical proportions.
She woke in the body of a dead friend. (Carolina Moon/Nora Roberts) A succint intro into a serious, emotional thriller with strong paranormal elements.
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife (Pride & Prejudice/Jane Austen) The incomparable Miss A invites us to her witty banquet with these well-chosen words.
I thought it might be fun today to share some first lines. If you're a writer, please post the first line of your current WIP. If you're a reader, pick a first line that has stuck with you.
This is positively, absolutely the last time, Lady Viola Preston promised herself as she squeezed through the lower storey window.
And now it's your turn!