Your First Lines: Opening Your Story With A Bang

The best openings accomplish multiple tasks, generally two or more of the following:

  • Catch attention with a provocative line or paragraph
  • Foreshadow (or actually spell out) external and/or internal conflict
  • Set the tone for the story
  • Leap right into the inciting incident

 TEXAS DESTINY (Lorraine Heath)

“His was not a face that women carried with them into their dreams.”

 CONFLICT:  She begins with an external symbol of the hero’s internal conflict.

TONE:  Indicates that this will be a highly emotional story.

TELL ME LIES (Jennifer Crusie)

“One hot August Thursday afternoon, Maddie Faraday reached under the front seat of her husband’s Cadillac and pulled out a pair of black lace underpants. They weren’t hers.”

 INCITING INCIDENT:  She states the inciting incident in the very first paragraph.

TONE:  Hints at a comic tone.

THE SEDUCTION (Nicole Jordan)

“The silken bonds bit into his wrists with exquisite pressure, heightening the sense of pleasure. A willing captive, Damien Sinclair lay defenseless, his bare arms fastened to the bedposts with scarves of scarlet silk.”

 PROVOCATIVE OPENING:  Has she got your attention?

TONE:  This is clearly going to be a very erotic story.

MONDAY MAN (Kristin Gabriel)

“Mondays were bad days for Nick Chamberlin. He’d come down with the chicken pox on a Monday. He’d kissed his first girl on a Monday. Okay, technically that was a good thing. Only, the girl of his seven-year-old dreams didn’t appreciate his advances and promptly knocked out his front tooth, which was eventually repaired by a sadistic dentist.  On a Monday.”

INCITING INCIDENT:  Do you suppose it’s a Monday, and the hero knows something’s not right?

TONE:  This is clearly going to be a light, comic story.


“The man staring back at Quaid from the rearview mirror was afraid. He had come to know that life isn’t as easy as the old cliché–when you fall off a horse, you simply get back on. At least it wasn’t that easy when the fall was from a rotting overhang of ice and the tumble backward was through three hundred feet of death-cold sky.”

 CONFLICT:  It’s clear what internal/external conflict the hero will have to face in this story.

TONE:  This story is clearly going to be highly emotional.

Copyright © 2013 Jane Graves. All rights reserved.

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