|Author:||Nola||Published:||about 3 years ago.|
|Tags:||openings, beginnings, hook||Category:||Writing tips|
Did you know that Snoopy lifted the first line of his failed manuscript from an 1830 novel by Edward George Bulwer-Lytton? If you’ve never heard of the novel Paul Clifford, it could have something to do with the opening:
The Bulwer-Lytton award is given each year to the writer who can come up with the worst opening line of a fictitious novel. If you’d like a laugh, you can find this year’s winners here.
Regardless of whether you’re writing fiction or non-fiction, a good opening draws readers in and makes them want to turn the page. Lee Gutkind suggests leaving out unnecessary background information and dropping the reader straight into the action or main theme of the story. Here are a few of my favourite opening lines that do just that.
All of these openings create interest and raise questions which we want answered. They compel us to read on. You can always go back and fill in more details once you’ve piqued your reader’s interest.
For Issue #36 of Gutkind’s Creative Nonfiction journal, the editors experimented by eliminating the original opening paragraphs of some of the essays so that readers would get to the heart of the stories more quickly. You can read about the experiment here.
Why not try the same with your current manuscript. Would it work better if you started further into the story?
Writing a sizzling opening line takes a lot of thought and revision, but it has a great pay off in terms of reader attention. Of course once you’ve hooked your reader, it’s important to fulfill what you’ve promised, but I’ll save that for a future post.
For now, consider some of the best opening lines of fiction from the American Book Review’s Top 100 List.
Which are your favourites and why? I’d be interested in your opinions.