Story openers - choosing the right starting sentence for your story

Story openers – choosing the right type of starting sentence for your story

This week, the Young Writers looked at story openers.

We examined different ways to open a story, to see which worked best for the story ideas they’re currently working on.

The group is currently writing stories aimed at young readers who have just moved on to independent reading of short chapter books. The stories need to be exciting, but with both age-appropriate content/theme and language.

We picked the following types of story openers to work on:

  • An action
  • Weather
  • Time
  • A statement or fact
  • A question
  • Dialogue

Each of the boxes below contains the five story openers for the same story idea based on the above.

Choosing the right story openers for your story - Nikki Young

It’s interesting to see how your choice of opening sentence can direct your entire story.

All of the above work great as opening lines to a story, but some work better than others. You can see how some of the sentences entice the reader into what promises to be an interesting and exciting story. For example,

‘Pebble dived off the sofa for the 50th time that morning, leaving a pebble-shaped dent on the stone floor.’

This asks questions of the reader – who or what is Pebble? How could he/she/it possibly leave a dent in stone?

It works much better as an opening than,

‘The rain had been falling down heavily for the last two hours.’

Then you have sentences of action that work well on their own, such as,

‘Dad lifted up the garden shed and walked with it balanced on his little finger before placing it in the opposite corner of the garden.’

Here, the reader is intrigued from the start about this super-strong dad. However, with a different opening sentence, like this one,

‘The Bensons lived in an ordinary house, on an ordinary street, in an ordinary town, but the Bensons were no ordinary family, oh no.’

The reader learns something about the whole family, not just one member. Immediately the reader is drawn in, wondering what could be so extraordinary about this family.

What do you think? Have you tried different opening sentences for your story to see what works best and how it might change the direction of the story you want to write?

Do you have a preferred story opening style?

I used a question opener for ‘The Mystery of the Disappearing Underpants’:

‘Have you ever had something lucky? A pair of trainers that helped you run faster, a pen that made you have the best ideas, a hat that every time you wore it you won at chess? Well I had my lucky underpants. At least I did until they went missing. Right when I needed them most.’

I wanted the reader to be intrigued – why did he need his lucky underpants? Where did they go? Maybe also, they could identify with the superstitious need for a lucky object?

In ‘Time School’, I used as statement as my opener:

‘Jess Chadwick was running late for school, an unimaginable thing to happen to someone who was always up and ready before everyone else. Jess was the sort of girl who arrived early, finished projects ahead of time and never skipped homework. You know the type.’

If it’s an unimaginable thing to happen, why was she running late? What had happened?

Do you have a favourite opening line to a story? if so, I would love to hear about it.

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