The Opening Line
By Donna Schlachter
Readers are easily bored.
Hopefully that opening line caught your attention and did at least three things. The following can be applied to any
written material, whether fiction or non-fiction, short story, epic novel, or flash fiction.
Introduces the topic: the opening sentence establishes a contract with the reader, lets them know what’s coming, sets the tone, and weeds out those who aren’t really interested in what you have to say. Because this one thing is true–not everybody will be part of your target audience, and the quickest way to lose a reader forever is to promise something you don’t deliver.
Causes questions to arise: if you tell the reader everything they need to know in the opening line, they don’t need to read the next 200 words or 200 pages. Instead, your opening line should cause questions to arise in the reader’s mind. In this case: why are readers easily bored? How can I keep them from getting bored?
Makes the reader want to read more: When readers invest time and energy in your writing, they are less likely to give
up, which offers you the opportunity to demonstrate what an excellent writer you are and what a compelling story you can weave. This, in turn, will transform your readers into fans and influencers for your products.
In Summary: you want your opening line to give a hint of what the story is about; cause the reader to ask at least one question that cannot be answered unless they continue reading. If you’ve accomplished that, you have written a great opening line. You do this by starting with action, identify the main character or situation the character finds herself in, and foreshadow what’s to come.
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Donna lives in Denver with husband Patrick, her first-line editor and biggest fan. She writes historical suspense under her own name, and contemporary suspense under her alter ego of Leeann Betts. She is a hybrid author who has published a number of books under her pen name and under her own name. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Writers on the Rock, and Sisters In Crime; facilitates a local critique group, and teaches writing classes and courses. Donna is also a ghostwriter and editor of fiction and non-fiction, and judges in a number of writing contests. She loves history and research, and travels extensively for both. Donna is proud to be represented by Terrie Wolf of AKA Literary Management.