5 Tips For Writing A Killer Opening Line

How do you write a killer opening line for your novel? It’s a good question. The first line is very important, it serves as the first impression for your novel, so making sure you have a great one is key to hooking readers in.

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So I’ve put together these 5 quick tips for writing a killer first line for your novel.

1. Display Your Voice
As I said before, the first line of your novel serves as the first impression your reader gets. If it’s your first novel, or at least the first novel of yours a reader has come across, then it may well be your first impression as a writer to that person. It’s vital you display your voice in that opening line.
This is because your voice is what makes your writing unique. Your voice is your fingerprint, your signature. The first line of your novel should say to the reader, “Hey, you! This is what I’m about.”

2. Bait That Hook
If your first page is the hook for your potential readers to get caught on, then your opening line should function as a tasty little baitworm wriggling on that hook.
A great way to do this is to pique their curiosity. Pose a question. Tell your reader that there is something they don’t know. That’s infuriating, knowing that you don’t know something. But guess what? They could know. All they have to do is keep reading and you’ll answer that question.
This is twofold, killing a mating pair of magpies with one well slung rock. Firstly, it makes your reader want to read on and find out exactly what it is they don’t know, or the answer to that opening question. Second, it functions as a promise that there will be many questions to come, that they’ll be kept interested and kept guessing all the way through your novel.

3. Subvert Expectations
The element of surprise is always a thrill, and it is no different in the opening line of a novel. People crave novelty, the unexpected, it is endlessly intriguing to us.
And again, it functions as a promise. This time you’re promising the reader that you’re giving them something new, something they weren’t expecting. No-one wants to read a novel where every turn is expected and every development an obvious one. So tell them in the first line that they have no idea what might happen next.

4. Set Up What’s To Come
You could just tell your reader the whole story in one line. This isn’t a weird way of writing a novel very quickly, it’s a device for generating interest in the rest of your book.
Hopefully your story is more than a surface synopsis, otherwise you have more problems than a first line, so if you can give a vague outline of what’s going to happen, and I mean very, very vague, then the tone for the whole book is set and your reader will simply need to know the details.
Of course, this isn’t always possible, and it certainly isn’t always a good idea. And it’s rarely a good idea to do this if you’re giving away a twist ending, for obvious reasons.

5. Make It Memorable
If you can make your first line memorable then you’re in the money. Imprinting the beginning of your book on a reader’s brain has a great many upsides, not least being the knowledge that you’ve become a part of their psyche.
If someone can pick up your book, read the first line and remember that line weeks later, you’ve sold a book. That person is going to need to read your novel if they can remember your opening line, especially if you’ve used the other tips outlined here.
When trying to write a memorable first line you should strive for a little poetry, dichotomy and/or philosophy. Read it out loud, see if it makes your spine tingle, then you know you’ve got it.

And those were 5 tips for writing a killer opening line for your novel. I hope you found them useful. I’d like to hear from you what some of your favourite opening lines are, so leave them in the comments section below.

And, if it pleases you good sir/madam, keep writing!

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photo credit: Leselys via photopin (license)

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