Sunday, November 14, 2010

Your Opening Line...

Does it knock readers socks off?

Many people lament that so much emphasis is put on to these first few words. But why shouldn't they be weighted heavily. After all first impressions truly are lasting.

On Saturday's radio show (click HERE to listen to the archive) we discussed the many facets of this first, crucial set of words you present to your reader.

But here are a few pointers...

You must gain reader's trust... NOW. Think of this from the readers stand point. Why should they shell out their hard earned money if you don't excite them with this first sentence? Why should they trust that you will pull out the stops later, when you aren't clear in this first line?

Be SPECIFIC. If ever there was a time to conjure up your best description, it is now. This does not mean spend seven sentences elaborating on the color of the bathroom tile. However it does mean if you mention the bathroom tile, let me know why this detail is important. Is it stained? Squeaky clean? Smeared with blood? Let the reader know you know what you are doing and give them a taste of the goods to come.

Let your GENRE shine through. Again, if ever there was a time to let your reader know what genre they are reading, it is now! If I am going to read a paranormal romance, I better get some paranormal or some romance (or a whiff of love on the horizon) NOW. gain my trust by showing me you know my genre and how to pull it off.

SURPRISE me. No, not the 'boo' I jumped out at you surprise. I mean legitimately show off a little and make me either smile, cringe, or laugh (whatever is appropriate to your genre).

Make this sentence COUNT. Now, if you bookend your story, this line will need to be referenced in the last few pages of your novel, but even if you don't plan on book-ending, then this sentence MUST have some relevance to your story and your hero. Even if you write a prologue a century and two continents apart, you've gotta make it relevant.

Alright, if you want more of this, click HERE to listen to Saturday's radio show (2pm PST). Plus while you are there, set a reminder for next week's show "Pacing - The KEY to engaging readers!" (Sat Nov 20th @ 2pm PST/5pm EST). "Talk" to you then! :-)


  1. Very interesting. I wonder about dialog as that all-important first sentence. Can it be pulled off using the criteria above?

  2. This is definitely something I struggle with. Thanks for the tips.