Richard Peck said: “You’re only as good as your opening line.” How do we keep our readers intrigued and wanting more? Here are five ideas to get our juices flowing.
1. Ask a question. Asking a question gets readers thinking. Not a Box immediately asks: “Why are you sitting in a box?” We want to turn the page to find out the answer. The Day the Babies Crawled Away questions: “Remember the day the babies crawled away?” This piques our interest. We want to know what happened on that fateful day. Did the babies survive? Where did they go?
2. Make people wonder. The first line in A Christmas Carol is: “Marley was dead to begin with.” This makes us wonder how he is involved in the story as a dead character.
3. Take People by Surprise. Mustache Baby declares: “When Baby Billy was born, his family noticed something odd: He had a mustache.” A baby with a mustache? We have to read on. Leonardo the Terrible Monster tells us: “Leonardo was a terrible monster…he couldn’t scare anyone.” A monster who isn’t scary? I can’t wait to turn the page.
4. State an opinion. Pride and Prejudice starts with an opinion that foreshadows the theme of the book and makes you want to read on: “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”
5. Use word play. Being Frank starts with: “Frank was always frank” and Bridget’s Beret is similar: “Bridget was drawn to drawing.” There’s nothing better than the clever use of words to get people wanting more.
I love everything about reading. I love the weight of a book in my hands. I love the way words create pictures in my head and bring me to another world. I love how books teach me about life and love and who I am and who I want to be.
As a kid I couldn’t help reading all day. I hid my book under my desk and read in class. I read as I walked home from school, always slightly surprised out of my reverie by the elderly lady in the neighborhood who announced: “There goes the bookworm again!”
I had reading parties with my siblings. The five of us piled on top of each other like kindling in a fire, our limbs touching as our minds burned with the need to read. After bedtime I read with a flashlight, my book hidden under the covers as I forced myself to stay awake for just one more page.
Kirsti Call lives near Andover, MA with her husband and five children.
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Take a few minutes right now to incorporate questions, wonder, surprise, opinion and word play in ten first sentences. These sentences might just spark an idea for an entire story. Also, consider the first sentence of your work in progress. How can you make it irresistible?
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Missed a SUMMER SPARK? Don’t worry, you can find them here:
Day 1: In Celebration of Summer Magic by Kelly Milner Halls
Day 2: The Power of Doodling by Alison K. Hertz
Day 3: Cause & Effect by Alayne Kay Christian
Day 4: How to be a Marketing Ninja by Corey Rosen Schwartz
Day 5: A Visual Writing Prompt: Begin at the End by Julie Gribble
Day 6: The Final Word by Jodi Moore
Day 7: Inspiration Station by Susanna Hill
Day 8: Voice and Word Choice in Picture Books by Tara Lazar
Day 9: Platform Building Can You Build It? Yes, You Can! by Tracey M. Cox
Day 10: 5 Ways to Hook Your Reader with Your Very First Line by Kirsti Call
Day 11: Burning Down the House aka Revision by Donna Earnhardt
Day 12: Persistence by Donna M. McDine
Day 13: Writing Your Way to a Spark by Kris Dinnison
Day 14: Hope In Your Heart by Carol Gordon Ekster
BONUS: What Songs Rock Your World? by Claire Rudolf Murphy
THAT’S A WRAP!
Follow-up #1: TIPS
Follow-up #2: 9 Ways to Tighten Your Story
Prize Announcement: Winner! Winner! Chicken Dinner!