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Crafting a Killer Opening Line

The first line in a novel is critically important. If you grab a reader with it then you capture their interest and hopefully more time to draw them into your story.

I knew how I wanted to start my story but worried about it being cliched or trite.

I visualised my character and a thought kept going through my head; how many of us get up in the morning completely oblivious to what might happen during that day. We might win the lottery, we might discover a secret, we might commit a crime or we might just die.

I knew there were some things I absolutely would not write.

It was just a dream

A description of waking up, the weather conditions or the room where the action takes place.

A detailed profile of the character or some convoluted back story.

All of these I had found in books I have given up on (for various reasons) and I didn't want to repeat those mistakes.

I knew I wanted it to be short and powerful. I wanted to convey that this is a thriller. Then I came across the master story teller's view.

Stephen King wrote; An opening line should invite the reader to begin the story. It should say: Listen. Come in here. You want to know about this.

That was what I wanted, to invite readers in to learn about the events and be moved in some way, by them.

In good examples I had read there was also an element of shock, or at least of the unexpected.

Hale knew, before he had been in Brighton three hours, that they meant to murder him.

Graham Greene, Brighton Rock

Eunice Parchman killed the Coverdale family because she could not read or write.

Ruth Rendell, A Judgement in Stone

It is cold at six-forty in the morning on a March day in Paris, and seems even colder when a man is about to be executed by firing squad.

Frederick Forsyth, The Day of the Jackal

Jack Reacher ordered espresso, double, no peel, no cube, foam cup, no china, and before it arrived he saw a man’s life change forever.

Lee Child, The Hard Way

For me these four brilliant examples have one thing in common; they set a hare running. They give the reader enough information to start asking questions. As long as they are asking questions they will continue to read to try and find the answers. That is the job of a first line!

I finally settled on my first line, having written eight versions of it. I hope you like it.

"It was the best day of his life, but it would also be his last." Keeping Secrets


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