Tag: Opening Line

If I Were Your Writing Coach, I Would Start You at the Beginning


Your first line is the most important of your written work. It is like the door to your house or business. You want it to be inviting so the reader will feel welcome and come for a visit in the world you have created. If the door to your house is chipped and scuffed and needs painting or refinishing and maybe the screen on the storm door is hanging loose, people might be a little hesitant to come visit. If you want to be a professional writer, your first line is the door to your business. If the opening of your written work is sloppy or uninteresting, why would the reader want to move on to the next line? If the first paragraph is dull or passive or even seemingly evasive through being non-specific, why would a reader want to bother reading the second paragraph? You don’t want your reader to feel like they have entered a rough part of town where few of the houses are maintained.

As mentioned in the previous entry of this series, I critique a fair number of works of art before they are seen by the public. While I have critiqued works of visual and industrial art, my forte is in the written word. I have helped other authors develop poems, short stories, novellas, novels, and even non-fiction works. I often come across the same issues in the works of many authors, especially those who are amateurs or just trying to break into the profession. This conversation will highlight one of these common issues and errors: the weak opening.

Action and Active Voice

If you are writing most types of fiction, write your first sentence in the active voice. You probably want the whole first paragraph in the active voice. You want to establish movement in your novel or short story. Don’t set the scene. Don’t tell your reader that it’s a bright and sunny day or that a vehicle moves slowly.¹ Focus on a character and what he, she, or it is doing.