Learn proven tips to ignite curiosity, evoke emotions, and create a unique narrative voice that sets your writing apart. Dive into this blog post for expert advice from science fiction and fantasy author K.V. Peck on capturing your reader's attention from the very first sentence.
Crafting the right opening line is essential to set the tone for your story. The first line of my book, The Memories Between Us, was the last line I wrote.
Here are some tips for crafting a memorable opening line in your writing:
Capture the Reader's Imagination: Craft an opening line that sparks the reader's curiosity or engages their imagination.
Establish a Unique Narrative Voice: Introduce a distinct narrative voice or perspective that sets your story apart from others.
Evoke Emotion: Begin with a line that stirs emotions in the reader, whether it's joy, sadness, excitement, or intrigue.
Pose a Thought-Provoking Question: Start with a question that piques the reader's interest and encourages them to keep reading for the answer.
Create Visual Imagery: Paint a vivid picture with words, allowing the reader to visualize the scene or characters.
Introduce a Central Conflict: Highlight a key conflict or tension right from the start, drawing the reader into the heart of the story.
Convey a Sense of Time and Place: Set the stage by describing the time, place, or setting in a way that immerses the reader.
Infuse Humor or Wit: Use humor or wit to grab the reader's attention and make them smile or chuckle.
Elicit Empathy or Connection: Make the reader care about the characters or situation from the very beginning, forging an emotional connection.
Leave an Element of Mystery: Drop a hint or foreshadow an intriguing mystery or event that entices the reader to explore further.
These tips can help you create an opening line that not only captures the reader's interest but also sets the tone for the entire narrative.
My two favorite openings
The perfect first line must be the perfect line for your story. At the eleventh hour before signing off on the final draft, I added a new first line to the The Memories Between Us.
The idea that the first line should hold the entire novel within it was one that stuck with me. Vladimir Nabokov’s first line from Lolita is:
Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins.
The poetry of Nabokov’s language, the obsession and sexual desire of the main character are all present in this one line. The line also gives readers voice and sets the tone.
In Toni Morrison’s novel Paradise, the first line is:
They shoot the white girl first.
While less revealing about what the whole story is about, this line sets the scene and mood, it is mysterious, vivid, and reveals high stakes. This line is also a gripping irony (the novel’s title is Paradise) and leads to questions in the reader’s mind.
The job of first lines is to get the reader to keep reading.
Crafting unforgettable opening lines is an art that every writer should master. The job of these first lines is to grab the reader's attention and make them curious about what lies ahead. To achieve this, consider the power of a strong hook. Start with a question, a surprising fact, or a vivid image that piques the reader's interest. Make a personal connection by addressing their emotions or experiences. Keep it concise and clear, avoiding unnecessary jargon. These proven tips will help you create opening lines that captivate your audience and keep them turning the pages.
It is so rewarding when readers tell me they plan to reread The Memories Between Us because they want to see the way timelines, universes, clues, and the overall design of the story was done after they reach the end and uncover the secrets of the multiverse.
Set reader's expectations
When I wrote the first lines of The Memories Between Us, I wanted to tell readers something about the main character Joshua, his wife Vivica, and allude to elements in the story to follow. These lines display voice, set the scene, exhibit the type of language the book is written in, and the level of detail the reader can expect. Joshua communing with paint speaks to his being an artist and shows he is thumbing through a time travel story, setting the reader’s expectation on the blurb’s promise.
Joshua burned through time in search of the right blue. He brushed his fingers along spotless tubes of ultramarine, rich cobalt, and true blue cerulean. Color-ordered, and inviting in their neat rows, these were the paints he could only yearn for in earlier days. [...] Joshua browsed stacks of science fiction classics and oddities. Viv found him thumbing through a reprint of a 1950’s seminal time travel story, one he’d read countless times as a boy.
For me, “the right blue” alludes to perception, memory, and trauma, themes that persist throughout The Memories Between Us. Joshua tries to find the right blue or the right universe where he can regain love. He is also a “color expert,” as his wife Viv gushes. He is an artist and appreciates the complexity and variety of a single color. Viv has a favorite color blue. Joshua also finds himself “into the blue again” or missing as he travels through time, awakening from unconsciously living to becoming aware of the truth.
The first line of The Memories Between Us hints at themes to come in the novel: finding the right place and finding love again. The variations of a concept like “blue,” mirror the variations in possibilities. The first line Joshua speaks is: “I’m pretty sure I know what’s real…” which becomes ironic and thematic as the story progresses.
I’d love to hear from you now. What are your thoughts on first lines? Do you have a favorite opening line? Let us know in the comments!
K.V. Peck (she/her) is the author of The Memories Between Us, a speculative fiction romance set in contemporary New York City with a twist on time travel. A Bronx, New York native, K.V. Peck lives in Naperville, Illinois, with her husband. Peck loves traveling in their camper to see friends, family, and her adult children across the U.S. and Canada. Formerly a marketing executive, she holds a Masters of Writing, Editing, and Publishing. K.V. Peck is a lifelong lover of science fiction, and has a soft spot for romantic stories.