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Volume 8 Issue 3
Page 6
It was a dark and stormy night …
It has been said that those words were the worst opening lines ever written; I’ve often
wondered about that; it seems pretty clear to me what kind of a night that was. I’ve
experienced nights both dark and stormy as well as nights brilliantly lit by full moon
on a clear, still night.
Yes, I understand that the words were not very imaginative, did not bring to mind the
possibility of a kind of night I had not experienced and yet, to me, they evoked within
me a vivid sense of reality that set the stage for what was to follow. Such phrasing
has been referred to as purple prose, meaning, in part, that it was (according to
Wikipedia) “sensually evocative beyond the requirements of its context. It also refers
to writing that employs certain rhetorical effects such as exaggerated sentiment or
pathos … an attempt to manipulate a reader’s response.”  In that it somehow implies
“influence in an unfair manner,” manipulate would not be the word I would use, I think
evoke is more to the point. With that in mind I am prompted to ask, why would one
write, for the reading of others, except to evoke a response?
Maybe it’s the Andy Rooney in me, but I don’t see it as a problematic opening,
unless as seems to be the case in its original use, it is followed by nothing but the
familiar and trite; failing in what follows to ignite the fires of imagination and
contemplation. I do think one could declare that the author’s work was highly
successful, having instigated a storm of literary criticism that continues to this day;
can you think of seven other words from 1830 that have outlived the remembrance of
their author   or even the novel which began with them?
An opening line should serve to set the stage, evoke the mood or trigger the reader’
s interest or imagination. When I am pondering contents of the many shelves of
books by unfamiliar authors, I often find myself reading the opening sentence of the
work and then flipping to the middle to read a line or two. If those few words do not
catch my interest, back to the shelf it goes. I’m sure I’ve missed out on many good
books that way, but so far, it seems to work for me. At times I am lucky enough to
find a story skillfully woven by a master of the craft, so much so that I am engrossed
in both the story and the word-craft that made it work so well. Not being trained in
writing (as you can so easily tell from my works) I am in awe of the skill of
wordsmiths, masters of the craft; perhaps if I read such works long enough, some of
their skill will rub off on me.
I am also in awe of the process of writing and I admire anyone who takes the time to
write, be it a diary or personal journal, a story or poem. I’ve found the process to be
transformative and the reading of such works, amateur or professional, to be
entertaining, informative and enlightening. I simply like words and ideas; I like and
appreciate Groundwaters and the many opportunities it provides. The ink squiggles
on its pages make me think, remember, imagine and yes, at times laugh and
perhaps shed a tear.
It is a gray and dreary day… a perfect time to curl up with the latest issue of
Groundwaters and immerse self in what each of you of the Groundwaters family do
so very well.
Dark and Stormy Night
1 Edward Bulwer-Lytton,1803–1873, from his novel Paul Clifford