Here’s a great post by the talented Stephen King on first lines and opening sentences that make you want to keep reading.
Hooking your reader from the beginning is really hard to do but with so many distractions and entertainment options, it’s all you can do to make sure people keep reading your story.
Some of my favorite opening sentences include:
1. “I became what I am today at the age of twelve, on a frigid overcast day in the winter of 1975.” The Kite Runner
2. ” Suppose that you and I were sitting in a quiet room overlooking a garden, chatting and sipping at our cups of green tea while we talked about something that had happened a long while ago, and I said to you, ‘That afternoon when I met so-and-so… was the very best afternoon of my life, and also the very worst afternoon.'” Memoirs of a Geisha
3. “Coraline discovered the door a little while after they moved into the house.” Coraline
I find all three particularly effective in grabbing your attention, piquing your curiosity, and immediately establishing expectations for what the story is going to reveal. They don’t have to be flowery and scenic or have explosions and car chases. As someone who’s drawn to character first and foremost, I believe good opening lines either establish a strong voice or provide a good teaser into the action of the story. Prologues and “once upon a time” type scenarios can be hit or miss and often bore the reader before they’re fully invested and interested in getting background information.
The opening sentence for my current novel-in-progress is not quite as catchy as I’d like it to be, but since it’s still in draft mode I’m not expecting it to be that perfect. Right now, what’s important is simply having something on paper and setting the stage for the plot. If Stephen King can spend months and years on his opening sentences, I’m sure it’s fine for me to put off that big decision too 😉
What are some of your favorite opening lines for novels or short stories?