How important is the opening line?

There are HEAPS of articles online that express how important having a killer first line and paragraph is. And I get that, I do… the amount of times I’ve flicked  to the first page in a bookstore to see how I like the writing style, is amazing. So I guess, it is personally important to me. Is it important to you?

My current first paragraph for Wrapped in Darkness is:

 Of all the places in the world I would have liked to wake up, sprawled out in a puddle of water was not one of them. The rain was pouring down from the sky, splattering against my face and all I could do was lie there and wonder how in the world I’d managed to stoop so low. Two weeks ago I’d been in college, working towards my dream of becoming a veterinarian for wildlife in Africa, and now I was soaked to the bone with a hangover from hell.

Death sucked.

Is it a good opening paragraph? I don’t even know. Because that’s the problem with writing, it’s so subjective. Everyone will have a different opinion.

How important are first lines/paragraphs to you? Will you pick up a book just because the first few paragraphs grab you? And hey, feel free to share your own first paragraph below if you want some feedback from fellow writers 🙂 I would love to read some.

About Jodie @ Words Read & Written

Book blogger & aspiring author.
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124 Responses to How important is the opening line?

  1. Al Philipson says:

    First paragraphs?
    How about: “You’re fired!”? [“Escape from Earth”; I’m writing the first draft]

    Or:
    Charlotte carefully adjusted her leather purse, slung its strap over her shoulder, and casually walked around the corner into the almost empty debarkation area of the spaceport. The fat albino behind the desk looked up from his monitor to stare at her, his right hand sliding slowly out of sight and down by his side. “Ah, Miss Stereo, back so soon?”

    [“God’s Assassin”; also in first draft.
    The next 2 paragraphs get the story off to a slam-bang start:]

    From behind her, a familiar voice growled, “Charlotte! Stop!”
    Charlotte froze as she heard the recognizable whine of a Mark 3 blaster powering up. She carefully held her hands out to the side, palms open. “Brother Bliss,” she spat without turning her head. “What are you doing on Merlin?”
    ———————————————————
    I’ve always believed that authors need to get right into the story on page one. No “set-up”, no long “info-dumps”, no lazy, flowery flights of literary prose. In today’s market, you have only a couple of paragraphs to get the buyer’s interest (if s/he gets that far). If you bore him/her, s/he’ll be off to the next book on the list.

    Like

  2. Al Philipson says:

    First paragraphs?
    How about: “You’re fired!”? [“Escape from Earth”; I’m writing the first draft]

    Or:
    Charlotte carefully adjusted her leather purse, slung its strap over her shoulder, and casually walked around the corner into the almost empty debarkation area of the spaceport. The fat albino behind the desk looked up from his monitor to stare at her, his right hand sliding slowly out of sight and down by his side. “Ah, Miss Stereo, back so soon?”

    [“God’s Assassin”; also in first draft.
    The next 2 paragraphs get the story off to a slam-bang start:]

    From behind her, a familiar voice growled, “Charlotte! Stop!”
    Charlotte froze as she heard the recognizable whine of a Mark 3 blaster powering up. She carefully held her hands out to the side, palms open. “Brother Bliss,” she spat without turning her head. “What are you doing on Merlin?”
    ———————————————————
    I’ve always believed that authors need to get right into the story on page one. No “set-up”, no long “info-dumps”, no lazy, flowery flights of literary prose. In today’s market, you have only a couple of paragraphs to get the buyer’s interest (if s/he gets that far). If you bore him/her, s/he’ll be off to the next book on the list.

    Like

  3. For me personally the opening paragraph isn’t make or break. If the blurb on the back didn’t grab my attention then I’m not going to open the book to even look at the opening paragraph and if it did grab me than I’m going to read the book. I’m the type that once I start a book, I finish it. I can think of maybe one or two books that were so bad I couldn’t finish them.

    Like

    • Al Philipson says:

      The opening chapter is just the end of a string of decisions the average buyer makes.
      1. It starts with the cover: Does the title and the artwork tell me this is something I might be interested in?
      2. The blurb: Convince me that this is something I’m interested in.
      3. Reviews: Are enough other people convinced this is interesting as opposed to a flashy dud?
      4. Finally, the peek inside.
      People are in a hurry these days and there are millions of books on the electronic “shelves” at Amazon, Apple, B&N, etc. At any point in the subconscious “decision tree”, they don’t like what the see, they’ll click on to the next item. Same thing in a bookstore, but the “blurb” is on the back jacket and there are no reviews except the self-serving ones on the cover — if any.

      Like

  4. For me personally the opening paragraph isn’t make or break. If the blurb on the back didn’t grab my attention then I’m not going to open the book to even look at the opening paragraph and if it did grab me than I’m going to read the book. I’m the type that once I start a book, I finish it. I can think of maybe one or two books that were so bad I couldn’t finish them.

    Like

    • Al Philipson says:

      The opening chapter is just the end of a string of decisions the average buyer makes.
      1. It starts with the cover: Does the title and the artwork tell me this is something I might be interested in?
      2. The blurb: Convince me that this is something I’m interested in.
      3. Reviews: Are enough other people convinced this is interesting as opposed to a flashy dud?
      4. Finally, the peek inside.
      People are in a hurry these days and there are millions of books on the electronic “shelves” at Amazon, Apple, B&N, etc. At any point in the subconscious “decision tree”, they don’t like what the see, they’ll click on to the next item. Same thing in a bookstore, but the “blurb” is on the back jacket and there are no reviews except the self-serving ones on the cover — if any.

      Like

  5. First lines are very important to me. I do the same thing in book stores where I judge the writing style of a book based on the first line. As a writer, I take my own first lines very seriously.

    I think that your paragraph is a very good opening paragraph, but if it were me, I would flip it a little:

    Two weeks ago I’d been in college, working towards my dream of becoming a veterinarian for wildlife in Africa, and now I was soaked to the bone with a hangover from hell; death sucked. The rain was pouring down from the sky, splattering against my face and all I could do was lie there and wonder how in the world I’d managed to stoop so low.

    I really love the phrase “and wonder how in the world I’d managed to stoop so low.” It’s very iambic, making for a powerful ending to the paragraph. And I like the idea of “death sucked” being at the very, very beginning. Those are just my thoughts, but you could totally disregard them. 🙂

    Like

  6. First lines are very important to me. I do the same thing in book stores where I judge the writing style of a book based on the first line. As a writer, I take my own first lines very seriously.

    I think that your paragraph is a very good opening paragraph, but if it were me, I would flip it a little:

    Two weeks ago I’d been in college, working towards my dream of becoming a veterinarian for wildlife in Africa, and now I was soaked to the bone with a hangover from hell; death sucked. The rain was pouring down from the sky, splattering against my face and all I could do was lie there and wonder how in the world I’d managed to stoop so low.

    I really love the phrase “and wonder how in the world I’d managed to stoop so low.” It’s very iambic, making for a powerful ending to the paragraph. And I like the idea of “death sucked” being at the very, very beginning. Those are just my thoughts, but you could totally disregard them. 🙂

    Like

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