In my imagination's Writers' Room, a committee looks at my first sentences

In my imagination's Writers' Room, a committee looks at my first sentences

Credit astute reader William22Bowen’s recent question about “first sentences per Margaret-Serious” for the rumblings in my imagination that turned out to be the following meeting. Note: It’s the Writers’ Room, plural, the place for other writers in my mind. The Writer’s Room, singular, ought to be a synonym for my whole imagination.

When my imagination just wouldn’t let me sleep one recent night, I muttered, “OK, Louis, I’ll get the notebook.”

A literary committee meeting was starting in my imagination, discussing my work — this time, just my opening sentences.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Robert Louis Stevenson argued about the chairmanship of this first meeting — in Scots, of course:

“I kent her first,” said Louis, “with my ‘A Child’s Garden of Verses,’ and she’s been fascinated enough by some of my other books that I’ve visited her — so awa wi’ ye, Arthur, I’ll be chairman here.”

“But we wouldna be meeting if I hadn’t written ‘A Literary Mosaic,’ Louis,” said Arthur. “That’s how Margaret’s gotten the idea of writers meeting to help out a younger writer.”

Agatha Christie, another committee member, tried to be reasonable: “Please, Mr. Stevenson, shouldn’t Sir Arthur take the lead here?”

“Really, Dame Agatha!” said Daphne du Maurier, the fourth committee member. “We dames of the British Empire are equal in rank to Sir Arthur!”

“At least as far as our Margaret needs to know,” said Stevenson. “Now let’s get to business. Arthur?”

“Wheesht, ladies,” said Arthur, and they obediently fell silent. “Now she’s made progress in her first sentences, hasn’t she?”

“But I was so proud of her first effort, when she had

‘As Maria Brewer fell to the ice, she thought, oh, not again!’ ” said Daphne. A woman facing something happening again, just like “Rebecca” and my dear –”

The other three leaned forward expectantly.

“My Mrs. de Winter,” said Daphne.

“Still no first name for her?” Agatha said.

“Ladies, mind our business,” said Arthur. “Margaret’s first sentences. Leads, she calls them sometimes.”

“Nae, they’re no leaden!” cried Louis.

“She has worked as an editor,” said Agatha. “Some use the spelling ‘lede’ to explain the pronunciation.” She gave a ladylike shudder that I understood as I noted her words.

“Let’s look at another one,” said Arthur. “Daphne, I think you and — What’s-her-name? — can still see some influence here.”

“She’s Mrs. de Winter,” said Daphne. “More than that, I’ll never tell.”

“This book Margaret’s writing now,” said Louis, “about the murdered roommate –”

“Ought we to reassure S.G.?” said Agatha. “That character obviously isn’t based on her.”

“Right,” said Louis. “Let’s get S.G. that message. She’s another character.”

“Several, actually,” said Arthur. “Now, the first sentence is this:

“The last normal thing I remember from that January night was the difference between the sky and the snow.”

“Memories at night,” Daphne said. “Good, but not quite Mrs. de Winter’s.”

“Oh, go on, you can tell us her first name,” said Agatha.

“To business,” Daphne replied. “If the narrator is remembering in present tense, why does she say what was in past tense?”

“Present would feel mair urgent,” said Arthur. “Louis, what do ye think o’ ‘The last normal thing I remember from that January night is the difference between the sky and the snow,’ then?”

“Better,” said Louis. “But whaur’s the snow? She’s told me eventually that the narrator, Miss MacDonald –”

“Guid Scots name,” murmured Arthur.

Louis smiled and went on. “Miss MacDonald falls in a snowdrift later and needs rescuing.”

“Chivalrous gentlemen, I trust?” said Arthur.

“Aye,” said Louis. “But the snow in the first sentence?”

“We don’t know where it is yet,” said Daphne. “Do you think I wanted to give away where Manderley was in that first sentence of mine?”

“There’s a point,” said Arthur. “Where’s the fun in giving it all awa?”

“Away,” said Agatha primly. “Really, you gentlemen and your English –”

“Scots!” said Louis and Arthur together.

“Margaret will understand,” said Louis.

And so I did.

Margaret Serious has a page on Facebook.

Whatever will I think up next? When’s the next imaginary committee meeting? Don’t miss a thing — subscribe  by clicking the button at the top of the post and following the prompts. I never send spam. You may unsubscribe anytime.








Leave a comment
  • I have a question concerning your literary committee. I was recently in Edinburgh, where there is massive, gaudy "Victorian Gothic" monument to Sir Walter Scott. It is said to be the largest monument to a writer in the world. In spite of this prominence in Scotland, do I sense that there may be a reason for his exclusion from your committee? Perhaps he would have encouraged more chivalry in your first sentence.

  • In reply to jnorto:

    That's a wonderful question, jnorto -- thank you! I'm glad you were able to get to Edinburgh, one of my favorite places. The only reasons I can state for Sir Walter's absence from the committee -- so far -- is that he wrote more historical novels. I do love "Rob Roy" and "Kenilworth," the second of which I read when I worked in Kenilworth, Ill. Thus, I suspect that Sir Walter is there in the Writers' Room... perhaps just waiting for a different meeting.

  • What a wonderful post! I want to

  • In reply to Weather Girl:

    Thank you very much! I can't help thinking that since I established the principle that people who never really came for a visit never really leave, the committee might be waiting around for another writing problem and another meeting. After all, Sir Walter Scott may want in on things (see above reply).

  • I just love how you think, Margaret!

  • In reply to Abbie Claire:

    Thank you kindly, Abbie. It's fun to be alone with my thoughts when they turn out to be populated like this!

  • I don't mean to be a stowaway in the meeting but I think it was a perfectly grand first sentence.
    Point of order - I wasn't invited.
    Sometimes you just have to give your opinion!

  • In reply to Kathy Mathews:

    No offense taken, Kathy. Take the post as your invitation! (I'm glad you liked the original first sentence, too. I'll see how long the edited one holds up.)

  • Reading this post was such a hoot! I may have to return to it periodically. I love the idea of this very particular Writers' Room - this literary committee - meeting to discuss your opening sentences, and I hope you had as much fun imagining and recording their comments as I had reading them. (Every time Dame Agatha spoke I laughed aloud!)

  • Thanks so much! It was great fun, the closest I've had to just taking dictation as a fictional idea happens. You certainly started something with your what-if comment when I answered a prompt by writing that I'd like to meet Robert Louis Stevenson. Thanks for that, too!

Leave a comment