Writing the Opening Sentence in a Story


A Guest Post by Sandra Robbins

When I was in college and taking a course in writing fiction, my teacher told me something that I’ve never forgotten. He spoke at length about how important the first sentence in a story is. When I began writing, I reminded myself of this as each story took root as an idea in my head. In trying to improve my ability to hook a reader right away, I began to look at what other authors had done in the past. How did their opening sentences give a hint to the story that would unfold in the book? I became fascinated by what I found.

 Last night I dreamed I went to Manderley again.

This opening line from Daphne du Maurier’s story Rebecca sets the stage for a book that has been called the best suspense story of the twentieth century. It tells the story of a young wife who realizes that her husband’s first wife casts a shadow of lingering evil that threatens her marriage from beyond the grave.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune, 

must be in want of a wife.

 So opens the love story of Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennett in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. What follows is a delightful tale of the folly of judging a person from first impressions.

It wasn’t a very likely place for disappearances, at least not at first glance.

This sentence paves the way for the story of Claire Randall and Jamie Fraser in eight Outlander novels (so far) and numerous novellas and Lord John books by Diana Gabaldon. The sweeping story of a young woman transported two hundred years into the past is filled with larger-than-life characters, sweeping landscapes, historical accuracy, and a love that transcends the distance in time.

These are only three examples of the great opening sentences that have been written through the years. If you have a favorite book, look at the first sentence. See what the author did that piqued your interest right away. Studying what other authors have done can guide us to challenge ourselves to writing an opening sentence that will grasp the attention of the reader right away, making it impossible for them to put the book down. After all, isn’t that what we all want?

Meet Sandra

email-signature-robbins-002Sandra Robbins, former teacher and principal, is the author of twenty-eight published novels. A native of Tennessee, she lives with her husband in the small college town where she grew up. They are the parents of four children and have five grandchildren. She is a two-time winner of the HOLT medallion given by the Virginia Romance Writers of America to honor outstanding literary talent and the winner of the Gayle Wilson Award given by the Birmingham Southern Magic Chapter of Romance Writers of America. Her books have also been finalists in the ACFW Carol Awards and the Daphne du Maurier Award given by the Kiss of Death Chapter of Romance Writers of America.

It is her prayer that God will use her words to plant seeds of hope in the lives of her readers so that they can know the peace that comes from trusting Him. 

Sandra’s Workshop

How to Combine Riveting Suspense with Heartwarming Romance

Participants will understand the elements of romance and suspense that combine to appeal to the reader’s heart. They will learn how to balance a story about a once-in-a-lifetime love that is threatened by the worry and concern of an impending crisis that will keep the hero and heroine apart.


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