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What is the key to writing a killer opening line?

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Mon Nov 21, 2011 9:13 pm
SakuraFallsSweetly♥ says...

I am writing a novel called Shooting Stars. It is very much unorganized and unfinished. There is one thing bugging me - I can't think of an opening line. What is it that makes an opening line? And how do people find it? It's a teen novel by the way, of course. Any feedback would be appreciated. Thanks! ♥
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Tue Nov 22, 2011 12:39 am
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Jas says...

Opening lines just come to me, I dunno, it's weird. I never start a story without my starting sentences ready so I don't know how hard it can get. Umm, try taking the overall theme of the story and summarizing it, try something really boring but twist it to make it ironic, try a question or maybe a joke. The best advice, I think, is to try everything and when you get one that's perfect, you'll know. :]
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Tue Nov 22, 2011 1:52 am
Leahweird says...

Me again! One of my favourite authors gave the advise "start where the story is." Meaning you should start the first scene right where things start to happen for the protagonist. There are times when this doesn't work, but I've found it makes a god rue of thumb. I often start with a snipet of dialogue, or some other thing that requires a lot of action.

A traditional method wa to start with a description of something, but I personnally find this harder to pull off.

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Fri Nov 25, 2011 3:52 pm
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Audy says...

^ what they all said.

Start where it matters. A lot depends on the type of story you are trying to create. An action story's opening line is most likely in the middle of an action scene and involves active verbs, fast pace, etc. A mystery story might begin with a question, or an ironic statement, or an intriguing scene. A fantasy story might begin with magic, or a particular setting, or world building. A story focused on a single character's perspective might begin with the nuances of that character's voice.

Remember that the first line of the novel should not only be a hook into your story, but a promise to the reader of what is to come and what they should expect.

Here's a good resource. That site breaks down some of the first lines of famous novels into categories, and then proceeds to analyze why that line works for that particular novel.

Hope this helps and good luck! If you have any questions or need to brainstorm some ideas, feel free to send a pm.

~ as always, Audy

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Fri Nov 25, 2011 8:09 pm
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Rosendorn says...

I always start off with a line that summarizes the character and their situation in the best way I can think of.

This is difficult. I have written 17-25 versions of my beginning over a few years, but each beginning keeps getting better. Stronger. And I keep getting a good grasp on my characters' voice each time around, which I then build on for the rest of the first chapter on it. I never really based much else off that voice, because I let my MC grow and develop into her own voice naturally. This is especially true for a new novel. I had something like 5 different character voices for awhile, till my MC's personality solidified.
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Sun Nov 27, 2011 2:11 am
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unmarkedterritory says...

Sometimes giving a vague image of what the end of the novel will look like, smell like, feel like or sound like is a good opening line!

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Sat Dec 10, 2011 3:42 pm
Dynamo says...

It depends on what kind of story you're writing, I guess. For me, I'm writing a fantasy epic with a lot of lore and history that I'm trying to build from the ground up. Since I want there to be a lot of personality in not just the characters but the world itself I'm putting as much thought as I can into the actualy world as the story and plot itself. Because of this, I need some sort of foundation to start on to help ease the readers into my world. The prologue is basically a breif retelling of major biblical events that led to where the world is now, such as giant beings showing up to raise havoc, a hero descending from the hevens to stop them, the hero leaving behind his sword before leaving which leads to everyone fighting over its power, then the world's version of God and the devil rolled into one entity being summoned to their world to destroy everything and build a new world from scratch, etc. With the prologue I give the readers a good sense of the world's history and what their society has been built around, then when chapter 1 comes up I start it in a church, where I make it look like the main priest has just finished a sermon where he had just told everyone what was said in the prologue. From there I procede to bring in the characters one-by-one.

Sometimes the simplest way is the best, but if you want to do something like I did you need to put a lot of thought into it to make it flow properly. Since you said you're book is a teen novel the first thought that comes to my mind is a school drama or something. In such a case, maybe start it with the main character rolling out of bed first thing in the morning.
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Sun Jan 01, 2012 1:45 am
confetti says...

I would say that simplicity is best for an opening line. When I pick up a book and read, that's the kind of opening line that hooks me every time.
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Mon Jan 02, 2012 12:26 am
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Sins says...

You've already gotten brilliant answers but I thought I'd throw in my 2 cents anyway.

For me personally, great opening lines are ones that are able to do a lot of things, even if it means that one line turning into a couple of lines to create the full impact. Let me show you what I mean with an example of one of my favourite opening lines.

I am writing to you because she said you listen and didn't try to sleep with that person at that party even though you could have.

This is the opening line of The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. From this line, you learn a lot. Instantly, you get a sense of Charlie's (the MC) quirky personality and his unusual way of thinking. Secondly, themes of the novel (f.e. partying, the way people treat others, trusting in others) are expressed through this one line. Then there's the mystery. You don't know who 'she' is and so it makes you curious. As well as that, it's just an intriguing opening in general. It makes you wonder.

What I'm basically trying to say is that I think the best opening lines are ones that have lots of different elements splashed into it. I'm not saying that a first opening line full of, say, mystery and only mystery is bad, not at all. I just find that fitting a lot of hooking elements is a very effective way of grabbing your reader's interest.

The best advice I can give though? Avoid clichés. So long as you come up with something original, you're on the right tracks.
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