Some topics just keep expanding the more you explore them! I’ve already written Killer Openings Part 1 and Killer Openings Part 2. Here’s the 3rd and final look at them. Previously we talked about these different kinds of first sentences:
3. INTRODUCE THE HERO
4. INTRODUCE THE VILLAIN
5. THE DIRECT APPROACH
Now let’s carry on with…
It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. (1984, George Orwell)
As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect. (The Metamorphosis, Franz Kafka)
The end of the world started when a pegasus landed on the hood of my car. (The Last Olympian, Rick Riordan)
These are opening sentences that include some kind of odd twist, surprise, or joke. Depending on the kind of story you are writing, you can use this kind of opening to unsettle the reader, creep the reader out, or make the reader laugh. These openers are extremely effective, but the more time and care you take in writing them, the better they will be. Choose and place each word carefully for maximum effect.
For example, notice how the most startling words are often saved for the very end – “thirteen”, and “insect” are really the most important words in the sentence. In the third example, the word “car” is what makes the joke – one doesn’t expect “end of world” stories with mythological creatures to be situated in the present, and the word “car” plunks us right down in the present day.
Only appropriate for genres like Fantasy or Science Fiction, this opening features a landscape, machine or creature that is entirely unfamiliar to the reader. The best example I can think of is a simple one:
In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. (The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien)
It’s a simple curiousity hook: mention a creature the reader has never heard of, and (hopefully) they will continue reading to find out more about it.
In this opener, a point of view is stated – an outlook on the world, or an observation about life. Whether or not you agree with the statement, it sets up the perspective of the story to come, or at very least puts you in a thoughtful frame of mind.
Here’s one that states up front the main preoccupation of all the characters in the book, that of matchmaking:
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife. (Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen)
Others can be more ominous and foreboding:
Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. (Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy)
And in the case of funny openers, the author may say something outrageous, just to set the tone.
It’s a funny thing about mothers and fathers. Even when their own child is the most disgusting little blister you could ever imagine, they still think that he or she is wonderful. (Matilda, by Roald Dahl)
These 8 kinds of opening sentences should help you get your story started. Just pick the one that best suits your story, that will draw your reader in and make them want to keep reading.