How do you make someone want to read your story or blog? The first sentence is crucial in this. Every author knows the struggle of the ideal opening sentence. What should you pay attention to? How can you write a great opening sentence?
Start with the throw of the stone
Many novice writers tend to start with the context: what preceded the story? Where does it take place? Who are the characters? Not only are many precious words lost there, it is often quite … boring.
The purpose of an opening sentence is to immediately clarify what the reader has ended up in. I like to compare it to the opening scene of a police movie; it always starts with the crime scene. Someone was killed. Only then does the search for the perpetrator and the motive follow.
American playwright Jacob M. Appel once said, “Start with the stone’s throw, not the run-up to it.” He meant by that: leave out the narrative. Skip the explanation. Start in the middle of the story, in the middle of the action. Or, maybe even just after the action.
Be careful that your opening line is not cliché. Think of a main character who wakes up and realizes that he or she is in a certain situation. Or two people who have met each other online and are going to see each other for the first time. This has been done so many times that it is no longer an invitation to continue reading.
Do not use a personal pronoun
Never start with a personal pronoun. Many stories start with “I”, “he”, “she” or a name.
‘Julia woke up early that morning’.
This seems like a great opening line. After all, as a reader you immediately know that Julia is apparently the main character and that it is morning, but it is not very original. In this case, you could also have written “The alarm had not yet gone and Julia was already awake.” It provides just as much, if not more context, and is a more exciting opening. The reader immediately wonders what is going on. Why was Julia awake early?
Try to amaze or intrigue the reader.
Show, don’t tell
An important principle for writing an (erotic) story is called ‘show, don’t tell’. This ‘rule’ says that it is better to let your reader experience it, rather than communicate it directly.
The opening sentence is the perfect opportunity to create the atmosphere of your story. You know you’re telling when your story feels like a fact report.
Read more about the ‘show, don’t tell‘ principle.
Zoom in and out
I said above that it is better to start with the stone’s throw, not the run-up. One way to do that is to zoom in at the beginning and zoom out afterwards.
Start with something small and then put it into perspective. A detail can symbolize a setting, a location, an atmosphere image. In this way you immediately have attention and create speed in your story.
Find something small that exemplifies something big. The relationship between a submissive and a dominant is complex and you could fill an encyclopedia with that. But closing a metal collar with a padlock may best reflect that relationship. Look for something this small and use it to hint at something bigger without fully explaining it.
Simple is always better
Make opening sentences simple. Avoid clauses, bullet points and too many punctuation marks. Does your opening sentence have more than one comma, a colon or a semicolon? Then break the sentence. Compare these two opening sentences:
“I had known Betty for a week. We screwed every night. The forecast was for storms.” [Opening of the film Betty Blue, 37° le matin.]
OK, the sentence starts with “I”, but it is simple yet effective. Especially compared to this opening sentence:
“Cheryl’s mind turned like the vanes of a wind-powered turbine, chopping her sparrow-like thoughts into bloody pieces that fell onto a growing pile of forgotten memories.” [Sue Fondrie, winner of the worst opening sentence of 2011]
The trick is to keep the opening line subtle. For example, start with a small fact, such as ‘It’s nice to feel pain’, or ‘The bike rattled the cobblestones’. It is even better to combine two facts into something special. For example, “There were two whores in the village, both of whom had red hair.” The fact that there were two whores in the village is a fact that is not very special in itself, but the fact that they both had red hair makes it intriguing.
Some opening lines seem to scream ‘ok, so you want me to get the reader’s attention? Well, then you can get it! ” An opening line like ‘You won’t know what happened to Chris until you read the whole story’ is such a trick. You try to challenge the reader, but there will be a risk that the reader will think: ‘forget it’ and drops out.
Start with a dialogue?
You can also start a story with a dialogue. Although it is catchy, it is often not recommended. You get a lot of punctuation marks and that doesn’t look nice. You also have to zoom out afterwards to interpret the situation.
What sometimes works is that you start with just one spoken sentence and then ‘zoom out’ to indicate the situation. For example:
“Say, what time are they actually coming?”
Julia held a black and a pink pump and held it up to Bart.
“Say, what time are they actually coming?”
Julia held a black and a pink pump in each hand and held them up to Bart.
A statement of universal principle
Some classics start with a statement of a principle. Think of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice (“It is a widely recognized truth that a single man with a fortune should miss a woman.”) And Anna Karenina of Leo Tolstoy (“Happy families are all the same; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. ”) The story you write must of course confirm that principle.