Trying 12 Opening Lines


Today, I am working on rewriting the opening chapter of my story. Many authors say they must go back and rewrite the first chapter because they didn’t know what it needed until it the last chapter was written. The last chapter must be set up in the opening chapter, it must be the inevitable result of what came before it. That’s my case today, and why I am revising the opening of my novel.

I’ve done a previous post on 12 options for opening lines and decided to take my own advice. Here, then, are the 12 openings and I need your help. Which one grabs you and makes you want to know more? Please leave a comment and vote for your favorite; but also tell me WHY it works for you. Thanks!

  • It was:
    It was a brisk spring morning, the day that Laurel and her Father went to inspect Sloth.
  • Viewpoint on life:
    Cathedrals take time to build, sometimes decades; and as the walls grow, people come and go, live and die. So it was that Laurel came one day with her Father to inspect Sloth.
  • Mid-action:
    Laurel groped for Sloth’s cold cheek and caressed the rough stone.
  • Dialogue:
    “Has Sloth survived this bitter winter?”
  • Landscape:
    • From her perch atop a twenty foot ladder, Laurel looked across the rooftops of St. Stephens Cathedral at the graceful lines of the stone building and the gargoyles which capped every gutter.
    • Alternate for landscape: The city of Montague lay quiet on this early spring morning, except for a brisk wind romping about amidst the towers and gargoyles of the Cathedral of St. Stephens.
  • SetUp:
    When Laurel turned up missing, her father and the priests of the Cathedral of St. Stephens lit candles in prayer and searched and pleaded with the heavens for news of her, but they didn’t think to look up.
    It began on a spring day. . .
  • Meet Jack or Jill:
    Laurel was tiny, like a hummingbird, her Father said.
  • Let’s meet Joe, My Friend:
    If Laurel was a friend to all gargoyles, her Father was the god of the gargoyles, the master creator.
  • I am:
    I am frozen in time, a girl who cannot move forward or backward.
  • Misleading lines:
    I hate cathedrals, all that stone surrounding a person is creepy.
  • Alternative media:
    To: All Priests of the River Province
    From: Cardinal Pater
    We beseech you, brethren, to be on the lookout for a missing girl, one Laurel Raymond, daughter of Master Raymond, architect of the Cathedral of St. Stephens.
  • Screenplay:
    Date: Two weeks after the spring solstice
    Where: City of Montague, home of the Cathedral of St. Stephens

17 responses to “Trying 12 Opening Lines”

  1. “Laurel groped for Sloth’s cold cheek and caressed the rough stone.”

    This opener grabs my attention and raises the following questions for me. Who is Laurel? Who is Sloth and why is his cheek cold? Is he dead? Oh, he’s made of stone. Why does Laurel show love for something made of stone?

    The line immediately pulls me into the story and I will read on to find the answers. Since I don’t know the ending, I don’t know how this line sets up the ending. It sounds like a great story! A caution about ladders and feet – have you researched to find the height of a ladder in that time? And if the measurement would be in feet, meters, etc.?

  2. I liked the “I am” opening. It intrigued me with questions in my mind about why she’s stuck and what her problem might be. Also, I liked the mysterious kind of tone it sets — but then that would depend on your story.

  3. It was a toss-up for me. I like the set-up “When Laurel turned up missing….” but I also love books with a great first person voice, and your “I am” beginning is very good.

  4. When I read the name Sloth I immediately thought of goonies, but I liked the “The Set Up” about Laurel missing and the priests and her father didn’t bother to look up.

  5. I like the set up. It gives the back story, introduces the characters, and slams us with a mystery (where is she? what’s up?) all in 38 words. Oh, God how I wish I could do that!

  6. oh, this is fun! my first choice? the set up. i like the landscape ideas and the “i am” but the set up — “but they didn’t think to look up” — oh my, that’s a hook.

  7. I would throw the ‘it was’ line in a lake with a stone tied around it. Sorry, I’m so brutal but I only want to hear about the weather in an opening line if it is deeply important to the story, like a hurricane, flood or drought which will be pivotal to the story in some fashion.
    I do like the ‘I am’ opening, I want to know why and how she is stuck. I also like the ‘set-up’ because of the bit of mystery, intrigue and hint as to the time and mood of the setting.
    Good luck with your revision.

  8. “Cathedrals take time to build, sometimes decades; and as the walls grow, people come and go, live and die. So it was that Laurel came one day with her Father to inspect Sloth. ” This caught my eye, as I wondered who/what Sloth was and why it was to be inspected, and the idea of a mystery comes with “come and go, live and die.” Its not so on the nose as the setup and not as mysterious and slightly suggestive as her rubbing the stone cheek.

  9. Sorry if my earlier comment came across as nasty, it was not my intent to be cruel, I just get quite impassioned about using the weather in an opening line when that weather isn’t pivotal to the story. When I wrote the comment it seemed much funnier but in hindsight could easily be read as if I meant it to be hurtful. My apologies if that was how you felt.
    I still fee the ‘I am’ and ‘set up’ openings were the strongest.

  10. Not knowing what the story is about makes it hard to pick an opener. I think I like the Set Up best, but it seems to contradict the first one where she and her father went together. If they were together how could she turn up missing and her father not know where she is? Good luck with your writing.

  11. Kirstie:
    No offense taken. It’s been fun, actually, to see where different writers “hotspots” come to the fore. It is, after all, your opinion.

    Darcy

  12. I’ve also read “never open with the weather.” Remember “it was a dark and storm night?”

    My favorite line that would hook me is the “I am.”

  13. I have to say it is very brave of you to share your process so openly so we can learn from your journey.
    As far as my favorite, I think I’d need to combine two: Setup and Landscape

    “When Laurel turned up missing, her father and the priests of the Cathedral of St. Stephens lit candles in prayer and searched and pleaded with the heavens for news of her, but they didn’t think to look up.
    From her perch atop a twenty foot ladder, Laurel looked across the rooftops…”
    Write On,
    Lee

  14. Thanks! I think it was courageous, too! : )
    In the end, I found that I used parts of about five of these openings somewhere in the first few pages. They are all bits of setup that needed to be woven into the action of the story.

    Darcy