Tips for Crafting A Strong Opener by S. A. Soule

Tips for Crafting A Strong Opener:

a guest post by S. A. Soule

Just for the record: I hate beginnings. The first pages of my novels are an inexorable torment to write because I am such a perfectionist. But after numerous revisions, I am very proud of my first sentences and my opening scenes. 

This post focuses on the “hook” every story needs in its opening scene. Without strong hooks, the reader has no reason to keep reading. A good “hook” can be an open-ended question, one that leaves the reader trying to decide what the main character will do next. 

James Tarbotton, Unsplash

It seems like it would be obvious to start a story at the beginning of the character’s journey, but unfortunately, that’s usually not a good place to start. No matter what the genre is, there are most likely several other scenes that can be used as the opening scene. Find the one that will have the greatest impact on your readers. Think of your first line as a hook that lures your reader into the story. It is your big chance to be so ingenious that your readers will not be able to put your book down.

Build up the suspense from page one!
Like I said, it is important to catch your reader from the very start with a good “hook.” The key to an attention-grabbing first page is withholding as much backstory as possible while divulging enough to interest a reader. After the first page, a reader should be asking questions about the characters involved (who?), their motivations (what?), the story’s timeline and location (when and where?), and lastly the reason behind all this action (why?).

Published authors have the fortunate advantage of starting a novel or short story any way they’d like. They’re an established name within the industry and already have an existing readership. However, if you’re an unpublished writer or if you’re planning to self-publish, things are not quite so simple, and agents and editors are not quite so tolerant or lenient. And remember that the competition is fierce. 

Sharon McCutcheon, Unsplash

Dream openers are cliché. 

Avoid beginning your novel with a dream. This can create a very awkward beginning. Dreams in general are often seen in the work of beginning writers (it will red flag you to agents and editors) because it’s overdone. Therefore, dreams should be used with great care no matter where they happen in a story, but should never be used as an opening. Always attempt to open your novel with the immediate sense of the storyline. 

Some skilled writing fails to connect the reader because the writer doesn’t get what the novel’s opening must do in order to hook a reader. Frequently, as I’m editing other writers, I find a gripping opening scene pages later in the story. Most often, a dump of exposition or backstory drags the story to a standstill.

For an unpublished writer, it’s absolutely essential that you grab the reader’s attention from the opener. Metaphorical hands should rise out of the first page, seize your reader by the collar, and yank them, helpless into the narrative.

This means opening with: EMOTION and ACTION and DIALOGUE.

Don’t start your story with too much description or long rants of introspection. Try to start it with an event that is actually taking place right now in the character’s life, or even better, the turning point. Your opening paragraphs should be stuffed with strong verbs and powerful nouns. The job of the opener is to draw the reader into your world with an indication of foreshadowing, upcoming conflict, or mayhem to come. 

Now, ‘something actually happening’ doesn’t have to be a homicide, a violent mugging, an extraterrestrial invasion, or the epidemic of some lethal zombie virus. It could be a blackmailing scheme, or it could be a nervous and horrible first day on the job, or it could be a fierce and demonstrative custody battle in court, or even a devastating result of a medical test. It could be just about any type of inciting incident that happens to the main character and grabs the reader’s attention.

What will compel a reader to put down your book after reading the first page?

Not opening with a strong enough first sentence or that much-needed “hook” in the first paragraph to reel the reader into your world. The first sentence is essential and each should be meticulously constructed to entice the reader into needing to find out more. Readers may forgive a less than stellar first sentence; however, the first paragraph should lure them into the narrative. Don’t bore the reader with too many tedious details, long paragraphs of inner-monologue, pages of backstory, or lengthy description.

Lacie Slezak, Unsplash

Remember, the opener needs to be fresh, original, with a great hook in the first line. Especially the first paragraph. Even more than that, the first page. Each one is extremely critical and should be crafted to bait the reader into needing to find out more.

Kyle Glenn, Unsplash

How many times do you revise your first line?

What are some of your favorite opening sentences?

Please let me know in the comments! 

Let's learn about The Writer's Guide to Plotting A Novel for more inspiration!

Awesome Tips on Crafting a Riveting Story that instantly Grabs Your Reader...

This guide offers amazing techniques for creating stronger beginnings and ways to write a page-turning plot for your fiction novel. Writers will learn how to make their first pages so intriguing with chapter “hooks” that the reader won’t be able to put the book down.

Easy to follow step-by-step instructions on creating a comprehensive plot with the three-act structure using the dynamic templates provided in this guidebook, whether you’re a plotter or more of a pantser. Each chapter provides comprehensive tips on storytelling, which every writer needs to plot like an experienced pro without a complicated outline.

Topics in this book include...

    6 Popular Genre Plot Templates
    3 Extensive Character Templates
    Tools to Create a Page-Turning First Chapter
    Advice on Writing Scene Hooks
    Simple Breakdown on Story Structure
    Advice from Bestselling Authors on Plotting

Also, writers will gain the tools needed to blend character goals within any scene to improve pacing, and instantly strengthen the narrative. Plus, bonus advice on self-publishing and genre word counts. Whether you’re writing an intense thriller or a sweeping romance, all novels follow the same basic outline described in detail within this book.

Universal reader link:


Nice! Such a helpful article that shows just how we should approach our opening scenes, plus a cool resource writers can pick up on Amazon... 




Guest Blogger Bio

S. A. Soule is a Creativity Coach, who has years of experience working with popular novelists. Many of her own fiction and non-fiction books have spent time on the Kindle bestseller lists. She likes to encourage writers to become awesome storytellers and find the positive.
The guidebooks in her bestselling Fiction Writing Tools Series are a great resource for writers at any stage in their career, and each book offers amazing tips on how writers can instantly take their writing skills to the next level.

Please visit her blog, which has amazing tips on creative writing and marketing for indie authors:
Link to read the Fiction Writing Tools Series:
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Creativity Coaching Services:
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