You only get one chance to grab a reader and drag them into your story—make them so intrigued they can’t help but read on. Just one more paragraph. One more page. Another chapter.
The first opportunity you get, is the opening line. Arguably, those opening lines are the most important part of your novel. And I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that the destiny of your book rests on those words. This sentence has the power to make or break or your book. Will the reader read them and be hooked, unable to put the book down? Or will it fall flat and leave your novel destined for the slush pile?
There is also no other sentence that has the power to become iconic. Something generations of readers remember. Think George Orwell’s thought provoking opening in 1984:
“It was a bright day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.”
Or Steven King’s ominous beginning in IT:
“The terror that would not end for another 28 years, if it ever did, began so far as I can know or tell, with a boat made from a sheet of newspaper floating down a gutter swollen with rain.”
Or the classic from Herman Melville’s Moby Dick:
“Call me Ishmael.”
That’s why Sarah and I have been painstakingly rewriting the beginning of the first book in our series, When the Rain Falls. We felt the opening sentence wasn’t quite right. It didn’t grab the reader and pull them into the story enough.
However, with so much riding on those opening words, it was difficult. I worked on them for almost two weeks. Writing. Rewriting. Deleting them. Starting again. But today, I had a breakthrough. My puppy was up at 6:00 am, and not wanting to wake the rest of my household, puppy and I sat outside in the early morning sun. I pulled out my laptop and the words came effortlessly. When I saw them— sixty words on an otherwise blank page—I just knew they were right.
What are your favourite opening lines? Or, how do you go about writing the opening lines of your novel?
Let us know in the comments below.