If you’re submitting work for publication, you want to be sure your opening lines are engaging and distinctive. A literary editor who’s bored after a few sentences won’t bother to continue reading your submission! Your opening lines should set the tone for what’s to follow. At Writer’s Relief, we know the best tips and techniques for creating an attention-grabbing, strong start to your story, poem, or essay.
Strong Ways To Start Your Story, Poem, Or Essay
Drop Right In: The technique for dropping your readers immediately into the middle of the action is called in medias res, and it’s a great way to pull them right into your writing. Just be careful that you quickly make it clear what’s happening so readers aren’t lost and confused.
Strong Images: Paint a picture with your words that’s so vivid and powerful, readers won’t be able to look away. Starting with a strong image, especially if it’s one that comes to have later significance in the piece, can help start and possibly even end your writing with an unforgettable emotional punch.
Stop Telling (And Start Showing!): Avoid too much exposition! That’s one way to lose an audience fast. Use dialogue and action to move your writing forward—it’s better to show readers what’s happening instead of telling it to them.
Set The Mood: There are many ways to set the mood of your piece, including the rhythm and style of your actual writing, the setting, any dialogue, etc. If you set an immediate and distinct mood in your writing, it will keep readers engaged and interested in what comes next.
Start Talking: Begin with dialogue! Incorporate a bit of the “Drop Right In” technique to really hook readers—you don’t need to start at the actual beginning of a conversation. Just jump to the juicy parts and let your readers do the catching up!
Unforgettable First Line: A solid, memorable opening line is always powerful. Take a look at some of these iconic first lines for inspiration!
Great Title: You have a perfect opportunity to hook your readers before they read a single word of your story, essay, or poem—with a captivating, irresistible title! Craft a title that is the right length for your genre and effectively targets your audience. You’ll probably have to write several versions of your title before you land on the right one—check this article for more guidance and inspiration!
Circle Back: When you’re writing, you don’t always start at the beginning—sometimes you write the end first, or the middle. By working on the middle and ending first, you’ll have a better idea of where and how your story, essay, or poem actually needs to start! You can then circle back to the beginning and come up with opening lines that will wow your readers.
No matter how you begin your poems or short prose in the first drafts, remember—revision is your friend! Don’t be afraid to rework and rewrite your opening lines until they feel just right.
Question: What are some of your favorite openings to poems, short stories, or essays?