One of the best things you can do for any story is to make the first paragraph exciting enough to convince the reader to continue. I fact, your first paragraph may be the most important part of your story. A good book consists of several parts.
1. An intriguing opening
2. A first chapter that makes you want to learn more about the universe or characters
3. Chapter endings that make you want to keep reading
4. An unexpected ending (or a satisfying ending)
If a story has these elements, then it will convince people to read it. Probably the best book I read recently that follows these rules is The Maze Runner. I was so impressed at how James Dashner was able to hold my interest throughout the entire book.
However, your opening line is one of the most important elements of any story. Take a look at some of my favorite opening paragraphs from famous books:
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way — in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”
The Witches by Ronald Dahl
“In fairy-tales, witches always wear silly black hats and black coats, and they ride on broomsticks. But this is not a fairy-tale. This is about REAL WITCHES.”
The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger
“If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it. In the first place, that stuff bores me, and in the second place, my parents would have about two hemorrhages apiece if I told anything pretty personal about them.”
Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
“I am an invisible man. No, I am not a spook like those who haunted Edgar Allan Poe; nor am I one of your Hollywood-movie ectoplasms. I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids—and I might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me. Like the bodiless heads you see sometimes in circus sideshows, it is as though I have been surrounded by mirrors of hard, distorting glass. When they approach me they see only my surroundings, themselves, or figments of their imagination—indeed, everything and anything except me.”
The Princess Bride by William Goldman
“This is my favorite book in all the world, though I have never read it.”
The Maze Runner by James Dashner
“He began his new life standing up, surrounded by cold darkness and stale, dusty air.”
I like that how even though all of these books are about vastly different things, they all make you want to keep reading. Now that I’m looking at these quotes, I guess I prefer the short and sweet openings. 🙂
What are your favorite opening lines in books?