Monday, May 27, 2024

Opening Sentences and Paragraphs

We all know that strong opening lines which hook the reader, and make him want to read more, are crucial to your novel.

 New writers spend lots of time trying to create the perfect first line, one that is dramatic and meaningful. A weak opening line may just be the reason a potential fan (or agent) passes your story by. You have to nail that first sentence/paragraph!

 Look at it in this way. When you are contemplating a new book, it's like the first introduction to a stranger.

There is the initial meet and greet: a handshake, what's your name, where do you live, what do you do for a living...

At this stage, you form an impression of the person. You may/may not warm to him.  

If you really "click" with this individual, then the small talk may extend to a lengthy conversation.

 So how does your novel fare, in the "first meeting" department?

Consider your opening sentence. Is it equivalent to a "limp handshake" or a "firm-grip-that-grabs-attention"?

Does it have the impact of a gunshot? So that when the "smoke clears", the reader will still be engrossed in the story, with the shot reverberating in his ears? Or is it the pop of a tiny firecracker?

Is it in the category of "small talk" or "captivating conversation"?

Some writers feel that good lines matter, irrespective of where they occur in your story. As long as you have them. 

If the opening is unforgettable, then good and well. After all, it's not the end of the world if the opening doesn't shine. Do you agree?

Look at your favorite stories. Do they all begin with memorable lines? Probably not.

 What are your thoughts on opening lines/paragraphs?

Want to share your favorite opening line with us?


cleemckenzie said...

Those opening lines are really important. I love your comparison between a "limp handshake" and "a firm grip." Perfect.

Here's one opening line I like: The first thing I did was hide the knife.


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Comparing it to first meeting someone is brilliant. I definitely want a gunshot!

Mirka Breen said...

I'm fascinated by opening sentences/paragraphs, so much so that I sometimes just visit many books on Amazon's "look inside" where I can find them without reading much more.
Openings are far more pivotal in awakening a prospective agent or editor's interest than they are an indication of "the rest of the story." An opening can be easily changed/revised later, so it's a pity they are all-important at the selling stage before we even get to publication. But it is what it is.
Long ago, Dickens mastered the first sentence trick. His are still the best of the best.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Michelle - lovely to see you here - and what an interesting article ... with the comments too - and you're right we do need to be engaged. My graphic novel on Dickens is leant to a friend at the moment - I must check it out when I get it back tomorrow ... re Mirka's comment. I like her idea of 'look inside' and using that as a thought process.

I hope the elections will turn out to have a successful and peaceful result. Cheers Hilary

L. Diane Wolfe said...

The opening is SO important.