Writing the Opening Line

When I first started writing, I never gave a thought to developing the  opening  line. I just had a thought, sat down, and wrote it. Of course, I didn’t sell anything. I don’t think anyone learned writing any slower than I did. Let me share with you what I have learned.

It is nearly futile to worry about the  opening  line when you first write the story. Save that for later when you edit. Look back on it when it’s cold. About 95% of the time, you can ditch the first two or three paragraphs and actually begin on the third or fourth one. Any details that you wanted to keep in those first few paragraphs can be worked in further down.

When you get to that point, you’re ready to think about your  opening  line. It will set the tone for the entire story. Is it a romance story? Then you might want to start with a romantic setting. Is it a horror story? You may want to start in the middle of a murder scene. Is it non-fiction that tracks drama? Start in the center of the drama. Whatever you are writing about, design that first line around your story.

You want something snappy. Something that will reach out and grab the reader by the throat. You might want to use heavy alliteration. You might want to scare the daylights out of the reader. That first line will grab your reader and pull them in. This is called “setting the hook”. Sounds like fishing, huh? In a way, it is. You’re fishing for the reader, and trying to keep them from passing your story in favor of another one.

Would you rather read a beginning that says, “Dad had to kill chickens that day so I ran away and cried.” Or would you rather read, “Dad entered the house with bloodshot eyes, carrying a bloody axe. I scrambled for the back door, screaming.”.

This is misrepresenting a scene, but it works and seasoned authors use it all the time. Use all the excitement you can muster to hold the reader’s attention.