The Opening Line

longtime

The stage is set.

You’ve researched for hours or maybe weeks.

You have a Microsoft document full of character backgrounds and your chapters are planned thoroughly (or loosely).

Now, you’ve cranked up your favorite music and sit down to write your novel.

The one you’ve been waiting to write.

It’s shiny, it’s new, and it needs a good hook.

In your novel, the opening line is everything. It can make or break your book. And when I say “opening line,” it could literally refer to the opening line or the first paragraph of your book, depending on your style. The point is, without a catchy beginning, your reader won’t keep reading. They say, don’t judge a book by its cover, but let’s face it, many people do. And just like a cover, people judge a book by its first page. In some ways it’s unfortunate, for the book itself maybe incredible, but if the reader isn’t hooked by the first few lines, well, you’ve lost them. In my book series, The Reformation Trilogy, the first line is always planned prior to my starting the actual writing of the book. Here are my three examples:

For Devastation:

“Anastasia’s life was a constant state of panic and survival.”

See how that hooks you? Why is her life a constant state of panic and survival? It excites the reader and causes him/her to keep reading to answer the questions that are formed by this one statement.

For Innovation:

“The scars of the battle haunted her as Anastasia Knight waded through the streets of a Symbolic City for the first time in months.”

Ok, if you’ve read Devastation, this statement helps you to recall the battle of Opustoshenie and its dramatic ending. A question then forms in your head: Where has Anastasia Knight been? I like this sentence because of the way it sounds. It makes me want to keep reading and find out what’s been going on with our favorite inventor. If you haven’t read Devastation, your mind then wanders to the words Symbolic City. What does that even mean? Well, you’d have to keep reading to find out!

For Reformation:

“Anastasia Knight stood up with the congregation as the organ began to play its haunting, beautiful, and precise notes that echoed through the large ballroom.”

Ah, the final book. The final opening line of The Reformation Trilogy. You might have an inkling of what’s going on, but more than likely, you don’t. Obviously, some kind of ceremony is going on, but if you’ve been reading The Reformation Trilogy, you might recall the dreary ending of Innovation. To me, this sentence is very mysterious. I also like the wording of “…haunting, beautiful, and precise notes…”

Opening lines are everything. The first page of your book is like the movie trailer for your book, but you only have one or a few sentences to entice your audience to keep reading. Here’s a challenge: look at your favorite books you’ve read and look at the first line or page. What had made you keep reading that book?

In Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card, I love the beginning of the book because it raises so many questions. The first line is especially puzzling:

“‘I’ve watched through his eyes, I’ve listened through his ears, and I tell you he’s the one. Or at least as close as we’re going to get.'”

See how enticing it is? Doesn’t it make you want to keep reading? Doesn’t it make you wonder who ‘the one’ is? The only way you can find that out is to keep reading.

Honestly, writing the novel isn’t always the hardest part. In fact, it’s keeping the audience invested in your books and characters. You have to make them care.

How do you make your readers want to keep reading? How do you write the first line/page of your book? Comment below with an example! Maybe, by writing unforgettable books, we’ll uncover a clue to be published.

Until next time,

S.G.B.

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