14. First sentence books

This game is better suited to older children and indeed adults. It is one I played and enjoyed as a student. It suits literary types, and people that read a lot of fiction, so if that’s not you this may not be suitable.

Look around your house and gather a pile of five or six novels. Children’s books are best if playing with kids. Each player in turn then reads out the blurb on the back of the book. The blurb must be a short summary of the story, so or example on the back of David Walliams classic Ratburger, the blurb reads ‘Meet Zoe..she’s got alot of things to be unhappy about…Her stepmother is so lazy she asks Zoe to pick her nose for her. And the school bully loves flobbing on her head. Worst of all the dastardly Burt has terrible plans for her pet rat. I can’t tell you what those plans are but there’s a clue in the title of this book…’

Each player then writes down a sentence which they think is a plausible version of the first sentence of the book. So for Ratburger we came up with..

  1. ‘Zoe was tired.’
  2. ‘The hamster was dead.’
  3. ‘Fabulous, fabulous, fabulous.’
  4. ‘The residents of Dalmation Towers were used to ignoring the repetitive drumming on the roof.’

The person who read the blurb initially does not invent a first line, but instead writes down the actual first line.

All these efforts are then read out by the person who read the blurb initially , although they may have to read them several times to themselves if there are legibility problems. Once this person is satisfied they can  read the entries convincingly they read each in turn, assigning a number to each -so ‘number one: Zoe was tired’, ‘number two The hamster was dead’ etc. Just to make it clear to your audience you have included the real first line in the list above, and the task is to distinguish the real first line.

Before you continue reading these rules make an informed guess as to which of the above is the true first line of the book Ratburger.

All the players each guess which is the correct line. A scoring system is maintained where players receive one point if they get the correct answer, and one point if somebody chooses their sentence. The correct answer is then revealed. In this case it is number two, ‘The hamster was dead.’ Did you guess this correctly?

The whole process is repeated with a second book, with family members taking it in turn to read the blurb and compile the sentences. A trick is to look like you are still writing even when you have finished writing. This game can be fun but perhaps does not suit families with dyslexic children and adults with illegible scrawls like ours (mentioning no names).