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  1. Naaz

    Naaz New Member

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    The Best Opening Lines

    Discussion in 'Writing Prompts' started by Naaz, Apr 11, 2016.

    Whenever I write anything (except and essay), the hardest - but often the most enjoyable - part is coming up with an opening. Often, I get a good sentence and then the opening sort of falls in around it. Other times I can sit down for ages, come up with a few openings, and none of them feel right (it feeling right is a massive part in anything I write).

    Now is one of the latter times.

    So I'm asking what do you think is the best opening line, or the best thing to think about whenever coming up with an opening line? Basically, any advice for opening lines? Or any opening lines that you think are particularly effective?

    And also, would you consider this an opening line worth keeping?

    The moonlight shone through the iron bars, piercing his heart with the pain that only a loss of freedom could bring.
     
    Last edited: Apr 11, 2016
  2. Justin Phillips

    Justin Phillips Active Member

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    For some reason my open lines always come out snarky. If I find some examples later I'll post them.

    The method that had worked for me so far is- I get in my head where the MC is, just a general idea, nothing too specific, and then just think and think of what a catchy, (usually snarky) opening line could be, and then that line usually determines how the rest of the scene will happen.

    Here's an example from my current WIP, a scifi space story..

    ------------------------------------

    It was a three day slingshot around the Earth, and he forgot to pack a damn toothbrush.

    Clayton searched frantically through his carry on, determined to find it somewhere. He was quite certain a good impression didn’t start with fuzzy teeth.

    Damn…not here, he thought angrily to himself, throwing the suitcase back into its designated locker in defeat. A stewardess had mentioned a gift shop on the observation deck, so he decided to head there.

    ------------------
    By the way I'm not saying it's a good opening, just something I scribbled down earlier as at least a placeholder. But it's the most recent example I can think of right now.

    So after I pulled that first sentence out of my head, everything else just followed, and built the scene from there.

    I do like your opening line. It covers a lot of ground for you in a clever way. In one sentence we get setting, time of day, a bit of his situation. It's good and flows well I think.

    It gives me the image of a pirate behind bars for some reason. But I'm also seeing maybe a slave. I guess that would quickly be cleared up in following paragraphs haha.
     
  3. Oscar Leigh

    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member Contributor

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    :D Mine's going to sound.... interesting. But it makes sense in context. And I think the overt boringness is interesting. And it sets you up expecting something unusual to pop-up sooner or later. It's from the prologue of Strange Days, my WIP, and the prologue is called "Isaiah Waters Was an Unremarkable Child"
    Isaiah Waters was born on the fifth of January 1986, in a hospital most of his family had been born in, to a mother and father who people found mostly unsurprising, on a day of the most unremarkable quality up to that point.
     
    Last edited: Apr 23, 2016
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  4. Justin Phillips

    Justin Phillips Active Member

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    That definitely grabs my attention, reminds me of the opening to Dean Koont'z Life Expectancy, for some reason. It's a bit long winded though, so if you could find a way to break it up into two sentences, that might help. what does anyone else think?
     
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  5. SadStories

    SadStories Active Member

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    I think opening lines should be snappy and beautiful, little works of art in themselves that capture the entire book's spirit. The most perfect ones I can remember off the top of my head are, "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife," which is from Pride and Prejudice, and, "All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way," which is from Anna Karenina. It's important that your opening line segues naturally into the rest of the text though. That can sometimes be tricky to get right if it is very impressive. The opening line for the book I'm currently trying to write is something like, "There was a rule in class bla bla bla of [exempted place name] school, which was that no one ever spoke to [MC's full name]." It's not the greatest opening line in the world, imo, but I think it is decent. There's no hurry with opening lines though, I think, just like with character names. You can change them anytime.
     
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  6. Oscar Leigh

    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member Contributor

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    It's sort of supposed to be long-winded. It's supposed to evoke a tedious "and it was also usual in this regard" feel. Representing how those aspects fit neatly with expectations.
     
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  7. Justin Phillips

    Justin Phillips Active Member

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    ah ok I get it. It's always hard to judge when there's nothing coming after it to give it meaning. I guess technically you weren't asking for it to be judged huh, haha.
     
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  8. Oscar Leigh

    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member Contributor

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    That's why I put the prologue title. I was hoping that would hint at the themes; the expected and the contrary being the main one.
     
  9. Justin Phillips

    Justin Phillips Active Member

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    yeah it definitely does that. also sheds a bit of light on your excerpt you posted with the back and forth with xandriel. He was born unremarkable, but obviously something happens that makes him talk to angels.
     
  10. doggiedude

    doggiedude Contributing Member Contributor

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    Not bad, but I'm not crazy about the piercing his heart thing.

    The moonlight shone through the iron bars, illuminating the pain his heart felt from the loss of freedom.
     
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  11. Oscar Leigh

    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hehehe you'll see if you read the book :p, whenever I eventually finish it. Probably a year or two.
     
  12. Oscar Leigh

    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member Contributor

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    What about "illuminating the pain of lost freedom"? That seems the neatest way of putting it to me. Rolls off the tongue nicest.
     
  13. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll Who wants waffles...? Contributor

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    Taking the bottle of Jack from the passed out clown on my bloody floor, taking a large swig and contemplating what to do about the horde of clowns littering my house.
     
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  14. Phens97

    Phens97 Member

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    mine is probably....

    George had been standing in the same corner of the field for seventeen years when the whiz of a bullet cracked into the thick hedge post near him. "F##king nailed it" mumbled Carolina as she worked the bolt on her .308, glancing around to make sure no one had seen the missed shot...
     
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  15. EnginEsq

    EnginEsq Senior Member

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    “You died too quickly, Ms. Rocos. Even if I’d wanted to save you, I couldn’t have.”
     
  16. 221BOlympusExpress

    221BOlympusExpress Member

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    And also, would you consider this an opening line worth keeping?

    The moonlight shone through the iron bars, piercing his heart with the pain that only a loss of freedom could bring.[/QUOTE]

    Yeah, I really like it. Especially the last bit about pain piercing his heart. I would want to read more were I to come across this opening line, and it gives off the impression of the person being recently imprisoned to me. Anyway, I think the opening line should be one that would evoke curiosity and provoke the reader to read more.
     
  17. Hypatios

    Hypatios New Member

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    If you're looking for critique on this, I don't really like it. It's too full, too laden with metaphor to be engaging or interesting like a first line should be.
     
  18. Foxxx

    Foxxx The Debonair Supporter

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    "Why haven't you killed me yet?" Oscar asked.

    ---

    Rain rattled his helmet, drowning his ears in a hollow pitter-patter. From beneath its brim, his eyes followed boots splashing lazily in the mud. His own feet fell into the hypnotic rhythm of the clanking and jingling equipment around him, until he had no idea how long they'd been marching for, or where they were going.

    (openers to two different WiPs)
     
  19. 221BOlympusExpress

    221BOlympusExpress Member

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    You should've quoted Naaz's post.
     
  20. Hypatios

    Hypatios New Member

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    BURP, I'm an idiot. Sorry.
     
  21. 221BOlympusExpress

    221BOlympusExpress Member

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    Right, its fine.
     
  22. Mumble Bee

    Mumble Bee In my defense, words are my weapons. Contributor

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    I love opening lines, they're so free, you can say/ do anything without any of your story so far holding you back.

    "Sure, jumping out of a plane without a parachoot seems like a terrible idea out of context, but when you factor in; vampires flying the thing, werewolves fighting daemon hunters in the cab, and mumbies (mummies who were bitten by zombies, still not entirely sure which side they take after) breaking out of the cargo bay- jumping out of a metal object 10,000 feet in the air starts to feel excessively sane."

    The real question is, how do I write the rest of that story?
     
  23. MusingWordsmith

    MusingWordsmith Active Member

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    I've got a good ending line for it.

    Splat!


    Anyway, on topic, opening lines are probably something I'll have to work on. I like Justin's method, and that'll probably be what I try to do. Maybe not so snarky, depends on the character, but that sort of thing. Although right now the first stuff I put down tends to be a lot of scene-setting, unless I deliberately make myself not do that.
     
  24. big soft moose

    big soft moose Contributing Member

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    It depends on your voice, for me that's way too melodramatic, but then I tend to write in quite a dry laconic style ... I'd be inclined to gradually describe the cell and make it clear that hes locked up rather than write about "piercing his heart"

    The first line on my Wip is " They say it started when someone shagged a monkey, if that's true I hope the sorry bastard had fun as he certainly shafted the rest of us"

    ETA - whoa holy thread revival batman
     
  25. Iain Aschendale

    Iain Aschendale Unanimity requires compliance Contributor

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    I see what you're trying to do here with the present progressive, but the two "taking"s in the same sentence aren't doing it for me. Three, and it would look planned:

     
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