Tip #5: Opening Lines
Marley was dead, to begin with.
A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens
Sounds easier than it is. But a good opening line—nay, a great opening line is worth all the effort. You might write it once and leave it, thinking it's perfect, or you may rewrite it fifty times. Do whatever it takes. On the other hand, don't get too technical. This is one of those intuitive processes you need to work with. Let yourself sink into the opening, feel it, be One with it, then let it spill out of you onto the page.
If coming up with this first line is giving you such a hard time you can't seem to work past it and get to your second line, then skip it. Sometimes a writer will come up with the perfect first line only after they've finished writing the last line!
The opening sentence is a multi-tasker. It sets the tone for the entire book, connects the reader emotionally to the character or narrator, hints at something yet to be revealed. You want to have the reader lean in, frown at the words, nodding, and say something like, "Wow. This is gonna be good."
Here are a few classics. How can you do this with your own story?
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.
If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don't feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.
The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger.
"'To be born again,' sang Gibreel Farishta tumbling from the heavens, 'first you have to die.'"
The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie
I'd never given much thought to how I would die - though I'd never had reason enough in the last few months - but even if I had, I would not have imagined i like this.
Twilight by Stephenie Meyer