Friday, June 11, 2010


At the beginning of a race, the gun goes off and the runners take off running. They don't stop until they reach the finish line. As writers, we want our readers to make it to the finish line, too. When writing the beginning of your story, we have to think of the reader and what will make them continue to read more. Should it be plot driven or character driven? That is the question.

how to write a great beginning || writing a good beginning | story beginnings | opening lines of picture books | great novel openers | different ways to start a story

Author, Jennifer R. Hubbard was asked this question at a writer's conference author panel, "Do you plop your character right into the action, or do you build up to it more slowly?" Her answer?
The concept of a hook and a strong beginning sometimes leads writers to throw everything and the kitchen sink into an opening, to grab the reader by the throat. But we shouldn't neglect character; isn't a story more compelling when we want to see not only what happens next, but when we care about the person to whom it's happening?
Here are a few examples of opening lines from picture books:
  • 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)

How to Analyze a Picture Book with a Story Board


Most of these openings introduce the character. Some other 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.  

QUESTION: What is your favorite way to start a book?

Keep on keepin' on...


  1. Christie, I like opening with main character or main place (setting)

  2. I love to start a story with an action, question, or command. The last two usually comes in a dialogue. I started the following PBs this way:

    1. Once the Good Fortune Chicken fell from the sky at a farm boy's feet - The Good Fortune Chicken

    2. 'Did you hear that, Fatima?' - A Wolf In My Arms

    3. 'Choose a goose!' - The Seven Geese


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