How does your story begin? Is there enough interest in your opening line to keep us listening?

opening line

“It was the best of times…”

As soon as you hear that line, you know what comes next: “…it was the worst of times.” That’s the power of an opening line. This particular one is, as you know, the opening line of A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens. First published in 1859, it is an historical novel set in London and Paris before and during the French Revolution.

Even in death…

This one isn’t as famous, yet. And yet it is a powerful opening line, from Colson Whitehead’s novel The Nickel Boys.

“Even in death the boys were trouble.”

Isn’t that a powerful opening line? As soon as you hear it, you want to know more. Whitehead goes on to tell the story of boys who were taken from different locations and situations and placed at a “reform” school called the Nickel Academy. What they had in common was that they were African American boys. All of them were horribly abused, and some were murdered and buried on school grounds. Their disappearance was so complete that their families never found them.

It has to be interesting.

The point is, your opening line has to hook us, or we will stop listening. This goes without saying, but it’s worth repeating.

opening line

I recommend this book to you, partly for its opening line. It is a tale every man will want to read. It’s not surprising it won the Pulitzer Prize in 2020. From its first few words to the end, you will be challenged by what it means to be exposed and vulnerable simply because of the situation into which you were born.

Key Point

You have an interesting story, but we might miss it without a great opening line. Read this book. It will help you tell your own story better.

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