The opening sentence can be the most difficult to write 

It takes a person between three to five seconds to form a first impression. The opening sentences of the first chapter of a book may be the reason we choose to continue reading, or not.

“Every time mama came across that shabby floor, the bullet lodged deeper into my stomach and felt like a hot poker.” 

Big bang openings have been traditionally associated with classic thrillers and mysteries. Who can resist a page-turning dynamite action opening in any kind of book?


Many of the best opening sentences in literature are short and simple. “Marley was dead to begin with.” A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. 

Although some of the best opening sentences are short and simple there are some notable exceptions. “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insist on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.” A Tale of two Cities by Charles Dickens

The dilemma

Readers can resonate and identify with a character torn between two very different alternatives. It’s a common human dilemma, a fatal choice that can be exacerbated if the main character is under pressure, or has a destructive unmet desire. As an author it is your job to create personalities the reader can care about, then give them desperate alternatives that have no obvious solution. Once you’ve managed to capture your reader’s attention, don’t waste it. Getting your reader’s attention is like the first strike of a One-Two punch. Make sure your second punch is worthwhile.

Of course, there is room for melodrama – but it is not at the beginning.

The title is just the bait. The writer must be deliver a realistic human aspect, be humble and down to earth.

Hook your reader in Chapter One:

  • Spell out what you want the reader to see.
  • Make it personal.
  • Use emotion.
  • If necessary – shock your reader with something outrageous.

Three Top Tips for Grabbing a Reader’s Attention

  1. Sharp and Snappy: Make sure the opening sentences is direct, simple, and sharply written.
  2. Active and Direct: The active voice engages a reader more than the passive voice. In the active voice, the subject takes action. An active sentence is simple and direct.
  3. Vivid and Creative: Being simple and direct is essential for grabbing a reader’s attention. It doesn’t mean your writing should be dull.