Want to snag your readers’ attention? The key is often the very first sentence because that’s where many readers decide to read on or to put your piece aside.
In his book “Hooked,” Les Edgerton asks: “What should be in an opening line? Anything that provokes the reader into reading the second sentence.”
Great beginnings, he says on pages 167 and 168, have “mystery, intrigue, shock, or a revealing glimpse of an interesting and original character that promises excitement or some other strong emotion to come—whatever.”
The first sentence usually presents a question your reader wants answered. It serves as a gateway into your fiction so make sure it grabs your readers’ interest.
Here are 13 Opening Lines that grabbed me:
1) “Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.” (One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1967)
2) “It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.” (1984, George Orwell, 1949)
3) “He was an old man who fished alone in a skiff in the Gulf Stream and he had gone 84 days now without taking a fish.” (The Old Man and the Sea, Ernest Hemingway, 1952)
4) “Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show.” (David Copperfield,Charles Dickens, 1850)
5) “All children, except one, grow up.” (Peter Pan, JM Barrie, 1911)
6) “I became what I am today at the age of 12, on a frigid overcast day in the winter of 1975.” (The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini, 2003)
7) “We were about to give up and call it a night when somebody dropped the girl off the bridge.” (Darker Than Amber, John D MacDonald, 1966)
8) We started dying before the snow, and like the snow, we continued to fall. (Tracks, Louise Erdrich, 1988)
9) “You better not never tell nobody but God.” (The Color Purple, Alice Walker, 1982)
10) “My name was Salmon, like the fish; first name, Susie. I was 14 when I was murdered on December 6, 1973.” (The Lovely Bones, Alice Sebold, 2002)
11) “ It was the day my grandmother exploded.” (The Crow Road, Iain Banks, 1992)
12) “This is a tale of a meeting of two lonesome, skinny, fairly old white men on a planet which was dying fast.” (Breakfast of Champions, Kurt Vonnegut, 1973)
13) “Besides the neutral expression she wore when she was alone, Mrs. Freeman had two others, forward and reverse, that she used for all her human dealings.” (Good Country People [from A Good Man is Hard to Find],Flannery O’Connor, 1955)
If you want to find more great first sentences, many Websites feature beginning lines. One I recommend is http://openingsentences.com/favourites3.htm. On this site you can actually vote for the openings you like best.
If you want to try your skill at creating a terrific first sentence, check out http://www.smrw.org/contest.htm.
Did you know the Smoky Mountain Romance Writers run a contest dubbed, “The Dandy Line” contest? Entry is free and the contest lasts about a month.
And if you need help crafting great openings, read “Hooked.” Edgerton, Les -- Hooked: Write Fiction That Grabs Reader at Page One and Never Lets Them Go, Writer’s Digest Books, 2007
Or if you’d rather just share your favorite opening with me, please quote it in the comments. Thanks.
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