What is the point of the first sentence of any novel? To get the reader to buy the book, of course.
Sure, that’s what the summary on the back of the book is for. But most people flip through the pages of a book before deciding whether or not they want to buy. Some people actually begin reading the story.
Shocking, I know.
So, if you want to grab your reader at the first chance you get, that chance is the opening sentence.
Most mysteries start off dramatically. I mean, if you’re writing a murder mystery I think that deserves a dramatic beginning, don’t you think? Someone was killed, that’s kind of a big deal.
Here are three ways to open your novel:
1. The Crime
Depending on the point of view, you can start the story off with a bang. Show the murder. Show the robbery. Show the criminal running away and the main character pursuing the culprit or suspect. Just be sure not to wrap everything up too neatly too soon.
2. The Discovery
Start with your protagonist arriving at the crime scene. They just got the call that a body has been found and they’re heading to the scene to meet up with the other officers to deduce what may have happened.
3. The Investigation
Show the detective flipping through some files or sitting in an interrogation room questioning a suspect. You can give your readers information on the crime this way without actually showing what happened. We’re already deep into this crime, where will it lead next?
When opening your novel, you want to delve the reader into the crime, into the conflict, as soon as possible. You want them wondering, “What happened here? What’s going to happen next? I guess I’ll read on to find out…”
With that being said, make sure your opening line answers one of these four questions:
1. What does this opening suggest the book will be about? 2. Does this opening develop plot or characters? 3. Why does this matter to the protagonist?
4. How does this hook the reader?