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Writing The Opening Lines Of A Novel, by Kate Forsyth

The Puzzle Ring by Kate Forsyth

The most important line in any story is the first line.

A novel needs to start with something so captivating that the reader is compelled to read on. This is called the Opening Hook. There is no single strategy for writing a hook. Hooks can use descriptive language, humour, clever phrasing, action, foreshadowing and many other techniques to lure the reader in.

I like my opening lines to do as much as possible. I think that they should identify the protagonist, signal the genre and age group to the reader, arouse curiosity, and jump straight into the action.

Here are my top suggestions for writing brilliant beginnings:

  • Always start at the point of change – what is the inciting incident, the event which will change your protagonist’s life for ever?
  • Always jump right into the middle of the action
  • Start with something that grabs the reader’s attention. A few suggestions:

* Action: the protagonist doing something
* Dialogue: the protagonist  speaking
 Thought: the protagonist sharing a thought or feeling or memory
 Onomatopoeia: a sound associated with an action
 Shocking Statement: something surprising or out of the ordinary
 Question: something to start readers thinking
*Anecdote: a short, interesting story

* Vivid Description – but try to avoid simply scene setting

Here are a few of my own opening lines:

‘Hannah Rose Brown was not quite thirteen years old when she discovered her family was cursed.’
The Puzzle Ring

‘The tower blazed upon the island like a column of white flame.’
The Starthorn Tree

‘So! Are you ready to die?’ Merry cried.
The Wildkin’s Curse

‘Being a prince was no fun at all, Peregrine thought moodily, staring out through the arrow slit at the pine trees shivering in the snowy dusk. Especially if you’re the son of a king without a kingdom. ‘
The Starkin Crown

‘Luka whistled as he walked along the country lane, his hat on the back of his head, his hand in his pockets jingling his coins. It was not often Luka had coins in his pocket to jingle, and he wanted to enjoy the sensation while it lasted.’
The Gypsy Crown

And here are a few of my favourite opening lines by other authors:

‘There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.’
– C. S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

Mr and Mrs Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal people, thank you very much.’
– J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter & the Philosopher’s Throne

‘When Mary Lennox was sent to Misselthwaite Manor to live with her uncle everybody said she was the most disagreeable-looking child ever seen.’
– Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden

‘Kidnapping children is never a good idea; all the same, sometimes it has to be done.’
– Eva Ibbotson, Island of The Aunts

‘Once upon a time there lived… ‘A king!’ my little readers will say immediately. No, children, you are mistaken. Once upon a time there was a piece of wood.”
– Carlo Collodi, Pinocchio

‘I’d never given much thought to how I would die– though I’d had reason enough in the last few months– but if I had, I would not have imagined it like this.’
– Stephanie Meyer, Twilight

“I write this sitting in the kitchen sink.”
– Dodie Smith, I Capture The Castle

‘It was dusk – winter dusk.’
– Joan Aiken, The Wolves of Willoughby Chase

‘Where’s Papa going with that axe?’ said Fern to her mother as they were setting the table for breakfast.”
– E.B. White, Charlotte’s Web


Kate Forsyth’s author website:

Kate Forsyth’s bio page


United States (and beyond)

The Puzzle Ring   

United Kingdom (and beyond)


Australia (and beyond)

The Gypsy Crown (Chain of Charms)The Starthorn TreeThe Tower of Ravens (Rhiannon's Ride)The Puzzle Ring     I Rode a Horse of Milk White JadeAcross the UniverseTarzan: The Jungle Warrior: Bk. 2

Writing Teen Novels

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