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Author Tips on Writing an Opening Sentence

writing an opening sentence

One of the crucial situations stages authors have to deal with upon starting their first draft is writing an opening sentence. Should it start with a normal sunny day before the gruesome murder takes place? Or should a profound statement about my principle in life will pull it off?

Some perhaps missed the importance of novel openers as baits to make your readers come wanting more from your book. Aside from the book cover, novel beginnings need to hook your reader, establish or give a hint to a dramatic situation that they need to know about as you transition to the next phase of your story.

Some love to open their stories with a weather or anything cliché opener that is typically read on books. Most likely, when that happens, what would’ve been your potential reader have gone off to a different section of the bookstore to look for a ‘better’ book. The good news is, you don’t have to experience the same fate. You can nail a brilliant one by learning these tips on writing an opening sentence.

Short and clear sentences are attractive

Don’t underestimate the impact of short openers. Nobody wants to read an open-liner that takes nearly sixty seconds to read. Always imagine your readers as busy shoppers in hunt for the best books they could find in a short period, and you’re in a competition of thousands of books in one bookstore alone.

One good example is Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. He started a profound statement that makes the reader curious about families and what makes them unhappy. “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

Start with an uncanny detail

J.M. Barrie’s famous children’s classic Peter Pan opened his story that describes more about its theme “All children, except one, grow up”.

This brings readers to Peter Pan the main character inhabiting the mystical island of Neverland. Barrie’s strange detail about a child who never grows up, hooks readers in wanting to know the magic behind a child who never grows up.

Don’t start with a weather

Opening your story with weather are elevator conversations your readers have no interest in knowing about. Unless the weather has a great impact on your story’s development. Then perhaps you can get a little more creative rather than starting with it-a-was-a-bright-sunny-day-when-it-all-started.

Establish your character’s voice

Jadie Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye introduces the character’s blunt and indifferent point of view:

If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth”.

Conceptualize a straightforward and interesting way to bring your main character’s personality into the light. This manner gives your audience an idea of the kind of character that will leave them interested more about his story.

Let them know about the rules

These are rules about your fictional story. It can be an odd rule that your readers can participate in. If your story is about deciphering clues to find out who the murderer is, you could open your story with an event where the victim is normally spending his day like no murder is going to happen later. You can find a good example of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone:

“Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much. They were the last people you’d expect to be involved in anything strange or mysterious because they just didn’t hold with such nonsense.”

Nailing a brilliant opening sentence can be daunting. Aspiring authors don’t want to be spending a huge amount of time on the first lines of their story, so learning from the best is the best treat you can get for yourself. Good beginnings will always lead you to good endings.

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