Opening Lines

A good opening sentence can make or break a story. The entire story can hinge on that one sentence. That’s not always the case, but readers need to want to continue reading, so the opening sentence has to be good. It’s as simple and as difficult as that. What makes a good opening sentence? I wish that I knew. I wish I could tell you a magic formula for writing the perfect first sentence. I can’t. It largely depends on the story. The first sentence in Sofia Kelly’s book, Curiosity Thrilled the Cat is perfect for the story. She wrote, “The body was smack in the middle of my freshly scrubbed kitchen floor.” I read that line and immediately knew that I wanted to read more. That first sentence set the tone for the book, a cozy mystery. That is what a first sentence should do.

Fred got out of bed, can be a first sentence, but it doesn’t say anything about the story to come. Nearly everyone gets out of bed at some point in their lives. Fred got out of bed after the smoke alarm went off, is a better first sentence. It gives a hint of action. Starting with action can catapult your reader into the story, but the first sentence doesn’t have to be the dramatic point of the story. You can lead up to that, as Sofia Kelly did in Curiosity Thrilled the Cat. You don’t even have to write the first sentence first. It could be the last thing you edit in the story. The first sentence’s job is to get the reader to want to read the next sentence. That’s actually the job of every sentence in the story, but the first sentence has to hook the reader and pull it into the story. The first sentence doesn’t have to be a long sentence. It just has to be long enough to get the reader to want to read the next sentence, then the next paragraph, the next page and so on.

That said, you should take care to craft your opening sentence carefully, but don’t obsess about it. You don’t want to neglect the rest of the story for the opening sentence. Think of the opening sentence as a promise to the readers that they will like what comes next. You shouldn’t break that promise. Think of the first sentence as an elevator speech where you have to convince someone of something in the time it takes to ride an elevator to the next floor. Just a hint of what’s to come is enough. It worked for Sofia Kelly. It can work for you too, if you do it right. Good luck, and keep writing.


I am not one who is comfortable talking about myself but here goes. I enjoy writing, family history, and reading. I decided to do this blog because I wanted to try something new. I decided to make it a weekly blog because I wasn't sure that I could keep up with a daily one, and monthly seemed like I was writing a magazine. I think I did ok with my choices. You'll notice that there are not a lot of graphics on my site. That's because there are graphics plastered everywhere on the Internet and those sites sometimes take forever to load. This blog is a place where you can kick back, relax and be ready to be amused. At least I hope I willbamuse you. This blog is on a variety of subjects from my ficitional cat agency, the FFL, which is monthly, to instructional blogs to editorials, which are my opinions only. I admit that I don't know everything and could be wrong -- I frequently am. Now, stop reading about me and read what I have to say!

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Posted in General Opinion, Writing Fiction

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© Lisa Hendrickson and Pebblepup's Writing Den, 2010-2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Lisa Hendrickson and Pebblepup's Writing Den with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
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