How to Write Great Opening Paragraphs to Grab a Reader’s Attention!
The very first page of your book needs to get the reader to want to keep reading – it’s as simple as that!
Many readers will glance at the first page of a book to see if it looks like it may be interesting – and worth buying. They will consider the writing style – does it look easy to read, does it look interesting? Is it different to others’?
They may look for any hint at what may lie ahead. Is something exciting going to happen? Is there a problem that has to be solved?
They may have a look at how you describe a character (or two) and decide whether they seem interesting.
Or (especially for non-fiction books) they will try to suss out if the purpose of the book will be worth reading about.
8 Good Ideas for write opening paragraphs
1. Present a problem!
Alex picked up the book. It was clearly well-worn, unprecedented on this earth. He knew this from experience. Earth 7, of all the parallel realities he had visited up to now, placed little or no importance on reading, let alone reading actual, physical books. What was so special about this one?
A piercing pain lanced through his right eye – sure sign he was being ‘read’. He quickly shoved the book out of sight and started casually musing about the girl with the red hair he had seen on the psi-track.
The pain intensified and Alex started to worry – was this a new type of personal infiltration he had not yet come across? Damon had tried to fill him in but … how well could he really trust Damon? He clearly had hidden agendas.
Suddenly, Alex felt his lungs constricting, he couldn’t breathe, the shallow gasps of air he was ever more desperately trying to draw became more and more brief. Inadequate.
2. Make it mysterious!
With practiced ease Jo-Jo Brown goes down on his knees, skilfully blending in with the meagre shadow a young mopane tree provides. His ears are pitched, ready to pick up any sound. Earlier that morning he had deliberately selected the thicket with almost impenetrable undergrowth for their sched break. Now the thick vegetation limits his view. While it is a good hide, it does not provide sufficient view on their approach route.
His eyes scan the bush beyond the perimeter of their hide. Sweat has run down his forehead into his eyes, making it even more difficult to observe beyond the limits of their temporary base. Out of the corner of his eye he glimpses Themo’s coiled figure, expertly camouflaged and completely hidden from any unsuspecting eyes. Jo-Jo knows exactly where his two other team members are, even if he is not able to see them. In fact, in his mind’s eye he can already visualise their posture, precise course of action and axis of attack should the bullets start flying.
3. Make it shocking!
Birdsong… How lovely she thought dreamily, loathe to open her eyes. I’ll just lie here for a bit, she thought to herself lazily. She loved luxuriating in those half-awake, half-asleep few minutes before she woke fully and stirred herself to rising.
Stiff. Her muscles were stiff and her body – no her bones – ached. Awareness gradually returned, and she noticed something sharp digging into her thigh. Vaguely annoyed she shifted her position slightly. She became suddenly aware of a sharp, metallic smell. And taste in her mouth.
It was like … like … the slaughter hut out back … blood?
Alarmed now, her eyes flew open.”
4. Introduce an unusual character.
The alley was dark. And dirty. The smell of old rubbish, urine and … fear … was pungent. The kid was wide-eyed, trembling.
I shook my head and folded the crossbow into itself and holstered it again; safely tucked the berretta away.
“Not a big talker, are you?” he asked. “You were incredible. You… who are you?”
“I told you,” I said. “I’m not real. You’re hallucinating. What you think you saw, you didn’t see. Your brain’s just conjuring up an explanation for you to cope with.”
“You’re telling me,” he held up the camera dangling about his neck. “None of this stuff’s real?”
I was fighting hard to stay calm and in control. The only thing keeping me from punching his lights out was the fact that he’d wake up and remember everything. Anyway, nobody would believe him; this time tomorrow he’d be locked up in the loony bin in a straitjacket for safe measure.
5. Describe emotions, make them relatable.
They say there is no sorrow greater than that of a mother who has lost a child. Gray becomes the color of the world, everything is diminished to the static of a TV screen with no signal. Every reminder of the emptiness echoes with the sound of a high-pitched keening – so high only she can hear it, so sharp her brain bleeds every time.
6. Make the point of view (POV) of the speaker unusual.
I am nothing but a corpse now, a body at the bottom of a well. Although I drew my last breath long ago and my heart has stopped beating, no one, apart from that vile murderer, knows what’s happened to me. As for that wretch, he felt for my pulse and listened for my breath to be sure I was dead, then kicked me in the midriff, carried me to the edge of the well, raised me up and dropped me below. As I fell, my head, which he had smashed with a stone, broke apart; my face, my forehead and cheeks, were crushed; my bones shattered, and my mouth filled with blood.
7. Introduce your theme.
If we are going to read about His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, it is necessary to first lay some foundation – he is, after all, first and foremost a Buddhist. To be more specific, a Tibetan Buddhist. Everything he is, says and does is underscored by this fact.
Sure, you say, we know that. But do you know what it means? Buddhism is both simple and also vastly complex and Tibetan Buddhism particularly so. If we are to understand where the Dalai Lama comes from, who he is and what he’s all about, we need to understand a few basic things.
8. Use humor.
In the beginning, the universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move.
A few don’ts!
1. Don’t describe your characters in a boring way (eg. Anne was an executive at her company. She had brown hair and blue eyes and she was 5 feet tall and wore a smart suit for work.)
2. Don’t lay out the plot of your book, step for step.
3. Don’t introduce yourself to explain why you are writing the book.
4. Don’t use clichés. (eg. It was a dark and stormy night.)
5. Don’t use long, drawn-out sentences.
6. Don’t give a whole long backstory to your plot.