How often have we heard that first impressions are lasting? Does the same apply to the opening lines in novels?
An attention-grabbing opening to a novel, not the head-standing, acrobatic, high energy stuff but a carefully crafted opening is a sure-fire way to spark the curiosity of the reader to continue reading.
Leading the reader in without saying too much by judiciously leaving out some essential details elicits intrigue for the reader to pursue the tale to its conclusion. The reader should discover aspects of a character’s world by being invited to be part of the journey. Those discoveries do not have to be palatable to the reader. A favourite character might reveal a side of their personality that perturbs the reader. The unexpected sustains the intrigue. In the real world, perfection is an illusion, to quote Alexander Pope, to err is human, to forgive divine. I fondly recall the podcast with Sevgi Yildiz, coordinator of the Sydney Bookclub, who said she ‘threw the book’ when her favourite character from her reading of Across Time and Space was not as saintly as she had wanted her to be. Emotional connections are indeed what keeps readers wanting more.
A sequel carries a known backstory but it should also be satisfying to read on its own without knowledge of the first book. Without summarising the first book, the opening lines should invite the reader in with glimpses into what went before which puts all the pieces of the larger plot puzzle together.
Opening lines of a book often take several redrafts to ensure that the right balance is achieved that leads to a natural flow from the first book into the sequel.
This is a skill that improves with each book written after several self-edits before the professional edit is solicited.
Today I leave you with my audio recording of the opening lines from the sequel, Vindication Across Time.
What do you look for in the opening lines of a novel?
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