I wasn’t sure what I should write about tonight.
And then the murders began.
That second line comes courtesy of sci-fi writer Staci Troilo, who linked to writer Jessica Bakkers’s blog, which had a reference to a very popular meme from 2017, which of course I am just discovering now.
The meme was started by author Marc Laidlaw, and went like this:
The first line of almost any story can be improved by making sure the second line is, “And then the murders began.”
— Marc Laidlaw (@marc_laidlaw) March 3, 2017
As you might imagine, the response on Twitter was fast and furious, with many great examples of its usage in some classic books.
The boredpanda web site has gathered a huge collection of these responses, and so I thought I’d share a few of my favorites. Note that some of them technically violate the second sentence rule, but I’m ok with that. The one from Charlotte’s web might be the most frightening.
- In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. And then the murders began. (The Holy Bible)
- There was an old lady who lived in a shoe. She had so many children, she didn’t know what to do. And then the murders began. (Nursery Rhymes, Dorling Kindersley)
- Mr. & Mrs. Dursley, of number 4, Privet Drive, were proud to say they were perfectly normal, thank you very much. And then the murders began. (Harry Potter And The Sorcerer’s Stone, J.K. Rowling )
- One sunny Sunday, the caterpillar was hatched out of a tiny egg. He was very hungry. And then the murders began. (The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Eric Carle)
- “Where’s Papa going with that axe?” said Fern to her mother as they were setting the table. And then the murders began. (Charlotte’s Web, E.B. White)
- “I wonder what Piglet is doing,” thought Pooh. And then the murders began. (Winnie The Pooh , A.A. Milne)
- Five little puppies dug a hole under the fence and went for a walk in the wide, wide world. And then the murders began. (The Poky Little Puppy, Janette Sebring Lowrey)
- When Mr. Bilbo Baggins of Bag End announced that he would shortly be celebrating his eleventy-first birthday with a party of special magnificence, there was much talk and excitement in Hobbiton. And then the murders began. (The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien)
- One evening, after thinking it over some time, Harold decided to go for a walk in the moonlight. And then the murders began. (Harold And The Purple Crayon, Crockett Johnson)
- Every Who down in Whoville liked Xmas a lot but the Grinch who lived just north of Whoville did not. And then the murders began. (How The Grinch Stole Christmas, Dr. Seuss)
- I am the chairman and president of The Trump Organization. And then the murders began. (D. Trump – How to Get Rich)
- He was an old man who fished alone in a skiff in the Gulf Stream and he had gone eighty-four days now without taking a fish. And then the murders began. (The Old Man And The Sea, Ernest Hemingway)
- The night Max wore his wolf suit and made mischief of one kind and another his mother called him ‘WILD THING!’ and Max said ‘I’LL EAT YOU UP!’ so he was sent to bed without eating anything… and then the murders began” (Where the Wild Things Are, Maurice Sendak)
- Alice was beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sister on the bank, and of having nothing to do: once or twice she had peeped into the book her sister was reading, but it had no pictures or conversations in it, ‘and what is the use of a book,’ thought Alice ‘without pictures or conversations?’. And then the murders began. (Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll)
- Jim Gallien had driven four miles out of Fairbanks when he spotted the hitchhiker standing in the snow beside the road, thumb raised high, shivering in the gray Alaska dawn. And then the murders began. (Into The Wild, Jon Krakauer)
- Daddy said, “Let mom go first.” And then the murders began. (Across the Universe, Beth Revis)
- “Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents” grumbled Jo lying on the rug and then the murders began (Little Women by Louisa May Alcott)
- We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold. And then the murders began. (Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream, Hunter S. Thompson)
- Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation…and then the murders began. (Gettysburg Address. A. Lincoln)
- When he was nearly thirteen, my brother Jem got his arm badly broken at the elbow. And then the murders began. (To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee)
The list goes on and on – there are over 500 entries.
I then thought I’d try it with a couple of books I’ve got on my Kindle.
- One year and four days after World War II in Europe ended in unconditional surrender, Laszlo Polgar was born in small town in Hungary – the seed of a new family. And then the murders began (from Chapter 1 of Range by David Epstein)
- On the 24th of February, 1815, the look-out at Notre Dame de la Garde signalled the three-master, the Pharaon from Smyrna, Trieste, and Naples. And then the murders began. (The Count of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas)
So it seems to work equally well with books written in 2019 or 1844; it works with fiction and non-fiction; it works with children, adult, and young-adult books.
It really is the perfect second line to capture any reader’s attention.
I hope it captured yours…
*image from TV Series Finale