Friday, March 29

How To Write A Great Opening For Your Story

How To Write A Great Opening For Your Story
Few would disagree that the first line of a story is the most important for hooking a reader's interest but how does one do this?


J.M. Ney-Grimm writes:
There is a structure that consistently hooks most readers’ attention. This “hook opening” won’t be right for every story, but it serves many of them well.

A character with a problem in a setting. (The First Lines)
We want the first line to provoke a question. For instance, here is one of the best first lines I've ever read:
It was a wrong number that started it, the telephone ringing three times in the dead of night, and the voice on the other end asking for someone he was not. (Paul Auster, City of Glass)
This opening line raises a number of questions: Who was the caller? Who did they intend to call? Why were they calling? Why let the telephone ring exactly three times? As long as the reader is interested in answering these questions they'll keep reading.

Use The Senses: Use all five senses every 500 words.

J.M. Ney-Grimm writes:
Ground your reader in what your character is seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, and tasting. Make your opening rich with sensory detail. Your reader will feel like she or he is there, chilled by the breeze, smelling cinnamon, tasting vanilla, hearing chapel bells, and watching the cavalry thunder over the hill crest.

Touch on all five senses in the first three paragraphs and continue to mention them every 500 words. (The First Lines)
Having hooked your reader, keep them immersed with your richness of sensory detail.

J.M. Ney-Grimm's article, The First Lines, is well worth the read. Thanks to The Passive Voice Blog for the link.

Other articles you might like:

- Creating Flawed Characters
- The New Yorker Rejects Its Own Story: What Slush Pile Rejections Really Mean
- How To Design A Great Looking Book Cover

Photo credit: "Aisha" by rolands.lakis under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.


  1. Cool. I think I've always done this instinctually.

    1. Awesome! I think many writers do.

      Sometimes my mind goes blank, though, and it occasionally helps to have a check-list of sorts to serve as a 'jumping off' point for revision.


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