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  • Writer's pictureSarah Northwood

How to write great opening sentences

I’ve always felt the start of my books could be more interesting, those first few sentences should say hey, this is why you’re going to want to read this one. And recently I’ve been writing a few short stories, which means, of course, a few challenges in terms of writing beginnings.

So as any writer knows the internet is a best friend, there for research as well as procrastination. Sometimes these are the same things! I found lots of great tips on how to do it properly as well as quotes from famous books that do it brilliantly. It really is amazing how helpful it is when you look things up. When you’re not afraid to ask for help and push yourself to do better.

I thought I might share some of the things I learnt, just in case you too are wanting to improve your first lines, or do some research, or procrastinate. I don’t mind which one. No judgements here.

Start with a simple sentence like, ‘The boy waited.’

Then add a little more, ‘The boy waited but they never came.’

By adding in they never came, we also mix in tone and suspense. Just this small addition adds a lot of information about the possible emotion of the boy who was waiting.

By thinking about what to add, you can also add in characterisation and what kind of tone you are narrating to the reader. For example, you could add in, ‘The boy waited all his life, but they never came.’

Or you could tell the reader something about the character.

‘The stupid boy waited, but they never came.’

‘The stupid boy waited all his life, but they never came.’

In just a few words, this change implies something different and more. It tells the reader that not only was the boy was stupid, perhaps someone else thought the boy was stupid. And more, it asks a hidden question. Was he really stupid? Or was his waiting a tragic affair. Certainly good for a hook.

It’s amazing how just a few simple things can really change the voice of the story!

I can apply this same thought process to my own opening line of this post.

‘I’ve always felt the start of my books could be more interesting.’

I could amend it to this, ‘I’ve a feeling the start of my books could be more interesting.’ This is a nice conversational tone where I’m admitting my own thoughts about my work in the hopes it might be relatable to others.

Or I could use a completely different tone, like this… ‘The start of my stories are like a fishing line, all they need is a hook.’

Perhaps this captures readers more immediately because again it asks an unseen question. What is the hook that they need and how will it get one?

I hope you found this helpful!

Sarah Northwood is an award-winning weaver of fiction stories and poetry for children and adults. She is an Amazon and Goodreads Author and you can follow her Facebook page to get all the latest updates:



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