Friday, June 11, 2010


When writing the beginning of your story, we have to think of the reader and what will make them continue to read more.  Some have asked the question, should it be action/plot driven, or character driven? Jennifer R. Hubbard gives her panel-answer from a writer's conference.  She also gives several examples of first lines in some of her favorite novels.

Here are just a few picture book opening lines:

  • Jenny loved to draw pictures. (Patches Lost and Found by Steven Kroll)
  • At haying time the midway comes to town. (A Net of Stars by Jennifer Richard Jacobson)
  • "Grandma, can I walk into town by myself?" I asked, one hot summer's day. (White Socks Only by Evelyn Coleman)
  • Grace was a girl who loved stories. (Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman)
  • Jenny Fox was bored. (Sally Arnold by Cheryl Ryan)
  • ...At the far end of the ocean lies a beach...and at the end of that beach stands a house.  But this is not an ordinary house, for this is not an ordinary beach. (Father Sea by Clayton Creek)
  • This is the story of brave little Pete who lived in a house on Geranium Street... (Brave Little Pete of Geranium Street by Rose and Samuel Lagercrantz, adapted from the Swedish by Jack Prelutsky)
Most of these openings introduce the character.  Some ways to start a book are:
  • with a question
  • dialogue
  • a thought
  • comparison or contrast
  • start with one of the five w's (who, when, where, what, why)
  • an action that is happening
  • an action that is about to happen 
This list is by no means comprehensive, but hopefully it will get you thinking about beginnings.  Sometimes we have to write the whole story and then go back and fix up the beginning, even if it means deleting it all together.  

What is your favorite way to start a picture book?  Do you have a favorite opening line and/or page of a picture book?

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