It may be true that covers and jacket copy sell books, but you’re going to need a great opening line to even get to the point where someone’s going to pick up your book. Why’s that? Because you’ll need to wow both agents and editors with your opening line so they’ll keep reading.
What makes for a good opening line? It’s should have a good hook. You need something so compelling that the reader wants, no needs, to go on to the next sentence.
Here are 3 tips, with examples, so you can take your first lines to the next level.
1.) Use contrast
Timothy took the school bus to Park Elementary, and today was like any other.
Normally, Timothy took the school bus to Park Elementary, but today was no ordinary day because there was no bus in sight.
Don’t have your character start out with what they always do. Draw your reader in right from the start by having something new, something different going on. Plus, it can be a good way to show character by throwing them out of their comfort zone.
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…
(A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens)
2.) Leave your reader with questions
Nina woke up and rolled over, pounding the alarm clock with her fist.
Nina woke up and rolled over, only to discover she wasn’t in her bed anymore.
Did the first sentence really interest you? Maybe you’d read on, but there’s nothing dynamic there. There’s nothing unexpected there. The second one makes you stop and wonder where she is, how’d she get there, and what’s going to happen next.
(Note: Many agents and editors don’t always like it when a book starts with characters waking up, so keep that in mind.)
It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.
(1984 by George Orwell)
3.) Be unexpected
Cinderella grew up with two evil stepsisters.
Cinderella had never worn high heels.
The first line is expected, ordinary, common knowledge. The second one takes a little more thought. It catches you a little more off guard.
Marley was dead, to begin with.
(A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens)
Using these tips, you can take your opening lines from boring to extraordinary and increase the chances that agents and editors will want to read your work. What are your favorite opening lines from literature? Share them in the comments.