Opening Lines

Opening LinesYour opening line is the first taste the reader has of the upcoming story.  It has to draw her in.  It is a contract, promising her a certain kind of story.  I decided to play around with different kinds of opening lines that I read about in the Writer’s Digest article, “7 Ways to Create a Killer Opening Line for Your Novel.

1.  A statement of eternal principle.

An eternal principle is a Truth with a capital T.  This principle somehow forms the core of your story.  This isn’t necessarily a scientific truth.  In fact, it may be true only for this particular story, but for this story it is Law.

My attempt:  No one knows how important someone is to their life until that person is gone.

I like it but I think it sounds too adult for a middle grade novel.

2.  A statement of simple fact.

This technique relies on having one fact around which everything else builds.  For my novel, Rat Race, this was something of a no brainer.

My attempt:  If I don’t finish this homework assignment, I’m going to flunk.

It’s a little melodramatic but it pretty well sums up the problem.  It doesn’t give the why and the backstory but it is the fact that drives his actions.

3.  A statement of paired facts.

This takes two facts that, taken individually, might be a bit “so what.”  Yet, when you take them together, they hook the reader’s interest.

My attempt:  My best friend keeps pet rats, but I like them way more than my own rat of a sister.

Oooo, that’s like a bit of foreshadowing.  I’m not sure it would work, but I still like it.

4. A statement of simple fact laced with significance.

At the beginning of the story, the reader won’t understand how important this fact is, but once they reach the ending?  The importance will be clear.

My attempt:  Before she disappeared, Mom let me help with her castings.

This is definitely important, but would it hook my readers?  Or would they simply scratch their heads and think “so what?”

5.  A statement to introduce voice.  

Obviously, this technique, opening with a single line that clearly shows the character’s voice, works best if the character has a unique voice.

My attempt:   The glittering light looked like pool water.  Why couldn’t I just go swim?

It tells you something about my character, but I don’t think it works.

6.  A statement to establish mood.

Select facts that set just the right tone for your story.

My attempt:  I struggled to think of something that I could use as a token, but all I could focus on was the ticking of my mother’s clock.

Can’t decide how I feel about this one.

7.  A statement that serves as a frame.

This is the kind of statement that lets the reader know that a story is coming.  Think “once upon a time.”

My attempt:  I’ve never turned in my homework early but that morning I had no clue how much trouble procrastination was going to cause.


It does set a nice ominous tone, but I’ve never been a big fan of talking to the reader.  That said, I may have to play with this one a bit.


Do any of these make you want to read on?


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