CURTAIN CALL

HOW TO WRITE AN OPENING LINE

Explosive beginnings are a necessity. The reader has to be drawn into your story right away – especially in today’s time. Whatever you present in the outset must reek of plot and hardship or something like it.

I edited a story a few days ago and the writer did something amazing in the beginning. His main character was being rushed to the ER after a car wreck. Doctors and nurses were everywhere, and she was slowly fading to her death.

Uh-mazing! My heart wasn’t sure if it needed to beat or what. It was such a strong introduction that I really had to take a momentary think-break just to clear my head. The next scene that he described was gorgeous in color and tranquility.

So let’s break this down a bit. What’s your opening line? Here’s where poets get their chance to shine in novel-writing. What’s that one line that draws the reader in?

Here are some sample openers:
1. “It is truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” – Jane Austen Pride and Prejudice

2. “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” – Charles Dickens A Tale of Two Cities

3. “You better not never tell nobody but God.” Alice Walker – The Color Purple

These lines will really get you into the story. In your novel, what’s one line that you could think of that can jumpstart your work?

Let’s do some practicing. By the way, if you have any strong openers that you’ve used, please post them as comments and respond to each other’s posts! RICH has some good ones that he’s posted in the comments section.

Here are some on-the-whim examples.

WATCH:
1. How does a broken heart keep beating?

It doesn’t matter who says a line like that, but the reader is already thinking about it. There’s so much pain in that line. It makes you know that the narrator is crushed. She may still be in a relationship and feel this way. She may have had a recent break-up. It just doesn’t matter. The reader is hooked.

2. Some dad he was…walking out on his wife and two kids.
3. I’ve only shot a gun twice in my life, and both bullets went into the same man.
4. Sweat plunged down his face as the snarls closed in on him.
5. He didn’t remember Gracie’s eyes being so cold.
6. Hiding in her bedroom, she crammed the pillow over her head, hoping that the bad man would go away.

These are just a few that came to mind, but here’s my suggestion. Think of an emotion that you want to portray at the outset of your novel and shine a police-flashlight on it. Try to capture the fear, the pain, the loss, the loneliness, the joy, the excitement, or the even the calm. Just grab it and make sure that you broadcast it. It’s your second chance to snatch the reader’s attention: the first chance being your title.

Thanks for stopping by!

Advertisements

23 thoughts on “CURTAIN CALL

  1. rich

    here are some of mine, in order of what i think is best to least:

    “The Curse” A large, shirtless man dropped his shovel and stomped on the freshly packed earth.

    “Lizzie’s Journal” It’s not easy to walk when you’re drunk.

    “Disconnected” Chris Babbage never liked flying unless he was taking his family to Disney, but that wasn’t the case this time.

    “Room 317” The mid-September Thursday was cool enough for long sleeves but warm enough to roll them up.

    Reply
    1. William Stadler Post author

      Rich, those are pretty good. I especially like Lizzie’s Journal even though I’m not much on drinking myself. But yeah, see, those lines are enough to hook a reader for sure.

      Reply
    2. Patty-chan

      I like the line for “Lizzie’s Journal” (and I am big on drinking). I like the one for the curse also because it’s immediately brings questions to mind. Was it a body that he buried? Who’s was it?

      Reply
      1. Patty-chan

        “I like the one for ‘The Curse’ also because IT immediately brings questions to mind.”*

        Man, it’d be nice if you could edit your posts.

        Reply
      2. William Stadler Post author

        Man, I know what you mean about the editing. And yeah, Rich has some good openers. Those types of questions really brings intrigue.

        Reply
  2. Satis

    I read a post similar to this not long ago, and it’s an understatement to say how important the opening line is. It sets the stage, and the tone, for the entire story, whether you intend it to or not. Perhaps my favorite opening of any tale is that of Great Expectations: “My father’s family name being Pirrip, and my Christian name Philip, my infant tongue could make of both names nothing longer or more explicit than Pip.” We learn so much more from this than just our character’s name. We are introduced to Pip as an infant – this is going to be biographical. We’ll be following Pip throughout his life.

    Reply
    1. William Stadler Post author

      I agree. Great Expectations does have a nice beginning, and the book is stressful to read because so many bad things happen to him; and you really never know if Ms. Havisham (sp?) really ever cared about him.

      Reply
      1. Satis

        Right spelling. The brilliance of it is not revealing the cause of her downfall until the very end; we are led to believe she is simply evil, and end up feeling dreadfully sorry for her.

        Reply
  3. Patty-chan

    “Hi. I’m a black guy from Whiteville, NC.”
    In the first scene of my WIP, the narrator is creating a Facebook profile. He’s a jokester. There are several funny scenes but the genre is Urban Fantasy and the relationship between the narrator and his love interest took up most of the novel. He’s making the profile specifically for his love interest (plans to use Facebook to meet her). It was either that, “Making a Facebook profile ranks pretty high on my list of things I’ve done to get a girl.”

    Reply
    1. William Stadler Post author

      See that’s a pretty good start. It seems awkward and clumsy which it should be if a person were truly using FB to get a date. Pretty good man.

      Reply
  4. Rosanne Moulding

    Very helpful blog post, I really like some of your examples. I’d read those books, especially ‘How does a broken heart keep beating?’ My favourite of my own opening lines is: ‘We cried the day my sister saw the future’. This article has made me realise I need to work on the opener to my novel though! Thanks.

    Reply
    1. William Stadler Post author

      Thanks, Rosanne. And yeah I do like your opener as it is. My guess is that it would be urban fantasy? Pretty good!

      Reply
  5. Layla

    Great post as usual 🙂

    Here’s the one from my WIPs:

    “Phineas was bleeding. Phineas was bleeding to death and there was nothing Georgiana could do about it.”

    Reply
  6. mariathermann

    Well, I used “Being a vampire sucks” as the opening line for my children’s vampire novel. Of the above comment section, I like Rich’s “Lizzie’s Journal” best, great start to a novel. Apart from that, Miss Jane Austen every time:)

    WIP Willow the Vampire & the Wuerzburg Ghosts: “It’s cruel and wicked, that’s what it is, Mum. Children shouldn’t be made to go to school, when the moon’s still up and witches are dancing in the graveyard.”

    Reply
    1. William Stadler Post author

      I like both lines from your WIPs – especially “Being a vampire sucks.” I feel like there’s so much more to say after a statement like that.

      Reply

Please Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s