I’m taking a masters class through Writers Village and I thought I’d share with you the “secret formula” to your opening lines.
It’s called the Hologram test. What is the Hologram test? It’s a golden rule that the first 100 words of your novel be a hologram, a teasing but true sample of the wares to come.
So how can you make sure your story passes this all-important test and wins the hearts of readers?
Here are 3 simple ways:
1. Locate your story clearly in a genre. A story that is not easily defined in a genre is typically dismissed LitFic (Literary Fiction). Yes, LitFic is a genre all on its own. LitFic should enchant the reader by its power of language or delicacy of perception. But, if you write a novel that doesn’t fit into a specific genre then you better be a damn fine writer, because not only will you have a difficult time with agents and publishers but with readers, too. So flaunt your genre quickly in those opening lines.
2. Give a teasing glimpse of the plot conflicts in your book. If your story fails to quickly introduce conflict, it’s either LitFic or a bad story. Conflict is the lifeblood of your story so start the stakes right out of the chute. Let two or more characters be in conflict immediately before readers turn to page two. Or, your protagonist in conflict with themselves, or external forces. Shake up the readers adrenaline! Get their blood pumping! Their eyes wide on the page before them! You can do this with narrative or dialogue. Sometimes dialogue is an easy way to kick-start the conflict, foreshadowing events to come. Put your indispensable statement in the first scene. An event, a revealing passage of characterization, dialogue, setting, or a provocative assertion by the narrator. Without it, your story doesn’t get going.
3. Enchant the reader with your style. Flaunt your style of writing — your voice — in the first paragraph. The restraint and balance of those lines tells the reader they’re in good hands. Don’t disappoint them with… “It was a dark and stormy night.” When a reader has invested their time and money it is your duty to repay it. You do that by enthralling them with your words. Enchanting them with your hook. Intriguing them with the story question you raise. And don’t forget to end your story well, too. No one will buy the sequel, if there is one, if you don’t end the first book well. One way to do that is to leave one unanswered question. Not a plot hole, just one teasingly tantalizing question that makes them want to buy book two.
What are some of the ways you like to begin your stories? I would love to read the opening lines of either your work in progress or your most recent novel. Leave me the first couple of lines in the comment section and get opinions from future readers. It’s a great way to judge if you’ve done it well. Don’t include the genre. Let us guess to see how well you’ve done.
To kick it off, here are the opening lines from my WIP…
The still silence of the night is my addiction. There’s no better drug on earth. It’s an incredible feeling to know I’m the only one awake. The only person stirring among peaceful, darkened homes. Alone in the dark I am free. Alive. Invincible. Nothing can touch me.