Good opening lines

by Will C.
(North Central West Virginia)

Question: I have an idea for a good story for a novel, but I am not sure what is a good way to start it. I don't want to use anything that has been used over and over, or something that is going to annoy my readers.


Any suggestions on good ways to start the story?

Question: Well, I definitely wouldn't start with the main character waking up.

Some possibilities...

1. Open in medias res, in the middle of things. Generally, you want to start at an important event. It doesn't have to be an event from the overall throughline. It could be the first event from any of the other three. But it should be significant.

2. Often, you will see the first paragraph hint at something significant that is about to happen or create some mystery, followed by some preamble. This is all right, but a little more challenging because you have to create an intriguing voice or main character to keep the reader with you until the event occurs (which should not take long).

3. More challenging is to open with preamble, philosophizing, etc. You need a really strong and charming voice to make this work.

One thing I would suggest you do is go to a bookstore or library and look at a number of top rated books in your genre. Read the first few pages and note what the author does to hook the reader. Don't try to copy them, just see what techniques they use.

Bear in mind that the opening should give the reader some sense of what sort of story they are in for. It's in the first page or so that the reader will decide whether the story is worth their investment. Don't, for instance, start with what sounds like a thriller story if the rest of the story is a sweet romance, because you don't want to disappoint them.

Comments for Good opening lines

Click here to add your own comments

May 03, 2013
Sample scenario
by: Will C.

So what you're saying is something like a character accidently stumbling across a dead body, or maybe a house where they see movement inside, even though they know the owners of the house are supposed to be out of town?
but still my actual question is how to actually write an opening line.
Would something like the following work?

The young couple held hands as they walked, and enjoyed the night air. The air was cool and crisp. etc.

May 05, 2013
Response
by: Glen

If this is a thriller, you could actually start with the body, or the movement behind the curtain. That would intrigue your thriller-reader. You can then step back and tell us about the couple and the setting.

If this is a murder mystery, which hangs on complex relationships between characters, you might start with an event that illustrates the complexity of a relationship.

If it's a paranormal story, you might start with a strange event that cannot be explained. Etc.

The other approach is to hook the reader with an interesting voice or character rather than an event. Ideally, you would combine the two.

Click here to add your own comments

Join in and submit your own question/topic! It's easy to do. How? Simply click here to return to Questions About Novel Writing.