Perhaps the most difficult task when you sit down to write a novel is to write its opening line. The first one or two sentences, you have to tell readers that the novel is going to be worth their time, you must hook the readers in and make them go beyond the first few lines. Your novel’s opening line is going to be your bait. If you don’t get it right, you are not going to catch any fish. Here are 5 great ways to open your novel -
1) Pique curiosity
A lot of opening lines of award-winning books start with a line that immediately rouses the reader’s curiosity. When you throw a strange detail at the reader as soon as you start the novel, you plant a question in their minds and get the reader to think.
George Orwell’s 1984 opens with - “It was a bright, cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.” With this line, the author establishes the ominous tone of the book. The number thirteen is attached to many superstitions.
2) Create an emotional connection
When you create an atmosphere that makes the reader empathise with your characters right at the beginning of the story, be sure that they will be immediately pulled into the story.
Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude has one of the greatest opening lines in the history of literature - “Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.” Not only does the author build the tension by stating how the protagonist is staring at death in the eye, but also establishes the time period when the story takes place, by talking about the discovery of ice.
3) Shock/surprise from the word go
By starting the book with a line that would shock the readers to the core, you can grab the
reader’s attention immediately.
Franz Kafka opens The Metamorphosis with, “As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a monstrous vermin.” These lines also tell the reader what to expect from the rest of the story.
4) Make readers laugh
A good way to pleasantly surprise the reader is to start the novel with a funny line. This way, you establish your narrative style, and give them a good laugh at the same time.
Jane Austen showcases her wit in the opening lines of Pride and Prejudice with “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.” We are introduced to Austen’s satirical sense of humour with these lines, while we’re also told about the times when being married was more or less a desire of the elite to rank them higher on the social ladder.
5) State an obvious fact of life
A lot of books also begin with the universal, philosophical truths of life. One of the best remembered opening lines of a classic novel is one such example.
Charles Dickens begins A Tale of Two Cities with, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness…,” and establishes a lot of obvious facts of people's lives after the French Revolution.