Writer Stephen King says, “An opening line should invite the reader to begin the story. It should say: Listen. Come in here. You want to know about this.”
He says further: “Because it’s not just the reader’s way in, it’s the writer’s way in also, and you’ve got to find a doorway that fits us both.”
That perfectly crafted and inviting opening sentence is something that emerges in revision
An effective opening line won’t happen right away. King says, “That perfectly crafted and inviting opening sentence is something that emerges in revision, which can be where the bulk of a writer’s work happens.”
This advice on writing opening sentences comes from Open Culture in an article highlighting Stephen King’s 20 rules for writers.
Elsewhere, in an interview with Atlantic magazine, King said, “A book won’t stand or fall on the very first line of prose — the story has got to be there, and that’s the real work. And yet a really good first line can do so much to establish that crucial sense of voice — it’s the first thing that acquaints you, that makes you eager, that starts to enlist you for the long haul. So there’s incredible power in it, when you say, come in here. You want to know about this. And someone begins to listen.”
My favorite opening line comes from Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea: “He was an old man who fished alone in a skiff in the Gulf Stream and he had gone eighty-four days now without taking a fish.” Yes, I want to know about this!
Isn’t that what we writers want? A reader who begins to listen. Make your beginnings work.