Thursday, April 17, 2014

O: Opening Lines

On her blog post titled, "The top 10 Best Opening Lines of Novels," Meredith Borders said, "A novel is made up of many thousands of sentences, but none as deeply important as the opening line. (Except, probably, the closing line—but that’s another post.) The first line should tell the reader what to expect in terms of language, plot and character. It should be mysterious and compelling, either poetic or shockingly abrupt. If a bookstore browser flips to the first page and reads the opening line, he or she should want to immediately sit down in the middle of the aisle and keep reading." 

So, this thirteen-year-old kid (not my own son:) came up to me the other day and said, "Mrs. Hawes, the opening line in your new book is awesome." Wow. I wasn't expecting that compliment. Maybe more along the lines of, "I loved the action and adventure and and almost near death experiences in your novel, or the perils the protagonist is pitted against kept me on the edge of my seat." This kid noticed my opening line and loved it. :)) It threw me for a second. I thanked him and honestly said, "No one has ever told me that before."

How many countless hours do you put into crafting the first sentence, the first paragraph, the first chapter? (Too many to count!) I must have reworked my opening line for my debut at least 50 times! For my WIP, I have gone back and forth with the first two sentences, still undecided as to which one needs to be in first place. Are you stuck on the first line? Or maybe you are finished with your novel but are still stuck on perfecting the first line?

In the opening scene of Free Runner, you will meet fourteen-year-old Cam, surfing on the tail-end of a storm in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. His world (and his surfboard) is about to flip upside down. Nothing can prepare him for the deception and danger to follow, except for free running.
Stay tuned for tomorrow's post on the extreme sport of parkour/free running!

#atozchallenge #amwriting #openinglines 
(Photo: free images)


  1. Great post and I agree that the opening line of a book can have a big impact on the reader.

  2. What a great compliment, especially from a young reader! Opening lines are TOUGH, yes. They take a ton of time to perfect!

  3. That was nice of him to say!
    The opening line for my second book took me the longest. I rewrote it a dozen times. When David King reviewed it, he mentioned that first line. So now I know I really need to spend time on them to make them rock!

  4. Coming up with a compelling opening line can be a challenge. That's great your student thought you had a good one!

  5. Yes! I used to judge whether I'd read a book at all entirely on the first line. I don't do that anymore, but there have certainly been some that sucked me in.

    What an amazing compliment!

    True Heroes from A to Z

  6. That opening sentence and the sentences that immediately follow are extremely important. Often that part of it comes fairly easily to me. I get an idea and the words just flow. It's that "murky middle" of a book that always gets me!

  7. Opening line is huge! I've re-written the opening lines of stories dozens of times, working at them and working at them until they were pitch perfect.

  8. As a writer, first lines can be hard. But as a reader I don't rely on them to decide whether I buy a book. I go for cover, back blurb and then the first page, in that order. If the first page lives up to my expectations, I'll buy.

  9. Brilliant post! Opening lines kick my butt. I have a story idea I'll work on after my current WIP even though it doesn't have a plot or theme yet, but just because I somehow wrote a powerful and shocking first 100 words. I sure hope I can come up with a plot/theme good enough to carry the rest! lol

  10. Opening lines. Sometimes they take my breath away. (As for mine, I'm not looking at them yet. I'll go back and rework once the rest of the novel is finished.)

    Liz A. from Laws of Gravity

  11. Great post. I am currently struggling with my beginning so I can relate. Hello from a fellow A to Z. Have a great month :)

  12. I love an opening line that hooks me in.

  13. What a great thing for that boy to say! I bet it made your day. I once spoke to 6th graders at a school. I read one of my chapters of a story I had written and this one boy was the best. His hand shot up to ask questions, he wanted to know what happened next and he was just so enthusiastic! He was so sweet, I just wanted to take him home with me.

    1. Aww, that's a great compliment when a kid gets hooked on your writing! And kids are so honest in their feedback:)

  14. Opening lines are definitely climbing the mountain. My fave is still the one from Charlotte's Web.


October #IWSG

Come join Alex J. Cavanaugh and the Insecure Writer's Support Group. We discuss our fears, insecurities, ups and downs of the writing p...