Friday, April 15, 2011

The first line of "Boys of Steel" you never read

In several drafts of Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman, the first line was not "Most days, Jerry Siegel slipped into the halls of his high school staring at the floor."

Rather it was "In the thrilling days of yesteryear, comic strips were printed twice as big as they are now. Movies cost ten cents. And heroes were everywhere."

I quite like it. It has atmosphere. But there is something it lacks, which is why I ultimately changed it. Guesses? Other thoughts?


Richard said...

Well…it doesn't have a character, or a narrative hook. The Jerry Siegel opening makes the reader ask why is this boy acting that way? Is he shy? Is he sad? Does he not like school? You're sort of obliged to read the next sentence at that point.

Since you ask, there's something else about the alternate opening sentence that seems less than ideal: alluding to a catchphrase from the golden age of radio wouldn't do much for young readers who are, let's say, highly unlikely to have heard of the Lone Ranger or radio serials. It seems like too much of a knowing wink at a select subgroup of older readers -- nostalgia buffs -- while leaving the intended audience for the book unmoved.

(Come to that, wouldn't any teachers or librarians old enough to have first-hand memories of Clayton Moore as the Lone Ranger be at retirement age now? Today's parents of grade school kids were born in a post-Star Trek world…)

I think the opening line you ultimately went with is perfect.

Marc Tyler Nobleman said...

Thanks, Richard, for your thoughtful response and kind word! You nailed it - the unused line doesn't pull in as well because it's descriptive, not narrative.