The words Once Upon a Time conjure a feeling of excitement for me. I know that a story is about to unfold and I prepare myself to be transported somewhere magical, a long, long time ago in a far-away land. It doesn’t matter that I am no longer a child and that my understanding of happily-ever-after no longer simply means being rescued by a prince. Stories captivate readers and the ability to tell a story well is a real gift.
I have come to believe that a good story begins with a good introduction. Here is a quick sampling of some of the opening lines I have used:
- Silver has a sweet voice, delicate features, and dainty hands that sweep the air. (The main character is introduced.)
- My daughter wants to look at my wedding pictures, but I prefer to keep the album safely tucked away. (A sense of mystery or intrigue is introduced.)
- She was supposed to hold my hand, Mother said. (The main conflict or trouble is presented.)
- Jim may look like a Gilham, but he acts like Ellie’s no-good brother. (We meet the chatty narrator who will continue to tell us the story.)
- The sun seemed subdued and was barely visible behind the cloudy haze. (The setting and mood is established.)
Establishing one of these five things (character, mystery, conflict, narrator, setting/mood) in the first line of a short story is one way of engaging a reader. You want to assure your reader that something interesting is about to happen and arouse their sense of curiosity. Unless they are quickly invested in your opening lines, they may not continue to read.
Other pieces of advice that I have accumulated (but don’t always follow) include the following:
- Keep the introduction short. (It’s a short story and not a novella, so dive right in!)
- Say something unusual or unexpected. (This can be a good way to hook or engage a reader.)
- Start in the scene. (Again, it’s a short story so let’s move right to the action.)
- Use present tense. (This lends a sense of immediacy to the narrative.)
If you are having difficulty finding a way to begin your story, you may consider using a story starter. There are many websites and books that provide writing prompts. Here are a handful for your easy reference:
- You have nearly…
- Just before the…
- She rubbed…
- My fingers felt…
- The sound of…
- Today, I will…
Finish the sentence for any one of these prompts and you may have the beginning of a great short story.
I hope this is helpful for your own writing. Send me a message and let me know!