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In a hole under the stairs there lived an author.

Do I have you interested? Having an effective opening line is an important part of every book and can be a determining factor in the tone and shape of a reader’s expectation of what’s to come. There’s a big difference between the opening line of a book and a visual medium such as a movie. When you write a book there’s a large amount of both time and emotional investment. It’s not a social activity and can take hundreds of hours to produce. You have to engage the reader instantly or they may move onto something else that spikes their attention. A reader may have the attention span to sit through a more well-known author but when it comes to an unknown author (this maybe you) you have to get their attention from the start and run with it.

An effective opening…

It pays to put the effort into the opening chapters. Okay, it pays to put effort into all chapters, but what I mean is the content of the story’s beginning must be important. Fill these chapters with intrigue, characterisation, and adventure. Things have changed since the authors of old and pages of history and back story are not something that are well received in modern literature. These elements should be woven seamlessly into the narrative by integrating them into the story and spreading the information out over many chapters. This makes it easier for the reader to stay engaged and easily absorb information about the characters and their world.

There are many ways to start. For example, you can introduce your protagonist by showing a core personality trait or defining character moment, not how they look. Start with their motive and weave their looks into the narrative. What not to do is kill the character off in chapter two, whom you have just established. Don’t cheat your readers.

What to avoid?

Things to avoid? Starting with characters talking about the weather, or boring mundane things. You will have difficulty establishing the correct tone and atmosphere of your work, unless this is your story’s tone. An issue I had in my early days of writing was writing in a visual form. I can laugh at my work now but I also can see that this doesn’t work.

Context is also an important part to consider when writing. A shock value scene or death in the opening chapter my not have any weight because the reader hasn’t had time to learn about or grow attached to the protagonist yet.

Another way is starting with a prologue. If you do choose this, it should have a direct effect on the majority of the story. Characters and events can be in the past, but not always faded into history. Keep it relevant and you may have a strong start. Pique the interest of your reader and keep them engaged for the whole book. Happy writing.

How to Start a Story

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