Free creative writing course - Lesson 2 opening lines

Free Short Story Writing Course – Opening Lines

Creative Writing, Free Writing Course

Start at the beginning – Lesson 1

This free writing course on writing short stories is a guide for beginners. There are no ‘rules’ or get rich quick schemes, just advice from a fellow writer.

What is a short story?

A compressed narrative, irreducible and intense, a piece of fiction designed to move, delight, provoke, amuse or shock – all in a single sitting. (Robert Graham – How To Write A Short Story (And Think About It))

How do we structure it?

We will talk about the story arc in future lessons.

The opening line – where do we start?

Grab your reader.

Read these two opening paragraphs – which grabs you?

George walked down the trench; mud clung to his boots. He was soaked and there was no way he could keep his rifle dry. The pack on his back was heavy. When he finally reached the ladder that ran up the wall of the trench, he climbed up two rungs and cautiously peered over the edge. He ducked as a bullet whizzed past his ear.

George stumbled down the trench. The thick oozing, mud clung to his boots making his feet feel as heavy as the pack on his back. Rain clattered on his metal helmet as he looked at his rifle, silently praying the soaked weapon would still fire. When he reached the ladder he climbed up two rungs until he could just see the German lines over the edge. A bullet whirred past his ear like an angry wasp and he slipped back down the ladder.

But choosing where we start is important – do we really need all that preamble? Why not start with:

A bullet whirred past Gorge’s ear like an angry wasp and he slipped back down the ladder into the mud at the bottom of the trench.

“Shit,” he muttered as his boots sank into the thick ooze.

Now we’ve got the reader’s attention we can add a little scene setting.

In many cases when a reader puts a story aside because it “got boring,” the boredom arose because the writer got enchanted with their powers of description and lost sight of their priority, which is to keep the ball rolling (Stephen King).

Some great opening lines that grab your attention        

‘Nathan Rubin died because he got brave’ (Lee Child – Die Trying).

‘Consider this moral conundrum for a moment, George’s mother says to George who’s sitting in the front passenger seat (Ali Smith – How To Be Both).

‘In these parts one occasionally comes across individuals of such character that, no matter how many years may have passed since ones last encounter with them, one can never recall them without experiencing an inward tremor’ (Nikolai Leskov – Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk).

‘I had hundreds of nudes stored on my phone but I’d never sent them to anyone’ (Lillian Fishman – Acts of Service).

‘July second 1943. From milk-run to bloodbath in half a second.’ (Robert Radcliffe – Under An English Heaven)

Read more of my short stories and articles on Medium

Read my short stories and poetry

Useful Books

Stephen King on Writing

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