The first few lines of a novel are generally those details that take longer time to be developed. The first line is the readers’ first approach to the book, and right there authors have the chance to captivate them. As an author, you need the first line to be fascinating enough, so readers will keep reading.
The first line should tell the readers about the book: what it’s about, and what kind of reading they are going into. You shouldn’t include too many superlatives and you should also try to avoid opening with dialogues. It usually kills readers’ interests.
There are different styles to start your book. You need to choose the most appropriate way for you according to the kind of book you are writing and the type of readers you want to attract.
Some of the most extraordinary first lines are those that summarize the entire novel. This is totally ingenious and it catches readers’ attention immediately. If you are able to summarize in a sentence the essence of your story, this could be the perfect first line to start your novel.
Many people prefer starting with some kind of maxim, something that could be really interesting for readers, a universal truth; a perceptive observation that may include some kind of disgust, cynicism or disappointment if you wish.
Some others use some kind of relevant event, like contextual information or historic events that take place in parallel with the beginning of their stories. Through the context, even if it has nothing to do with your story, readers can easily identify and approach the episodes you are relating.
You can also opt for the traditional way to start a story. Once upon a time… this continues being a very enigmatic way to begin a story and readers hardly resist it. It always generates some kind of curiosity about what comes next.
Great first lines are usually clear and simple, giving certain information about the character or the situation, with no complicated ideas. My name is… I come from… I used to….. He was born… etc. Making things simple is sometimes the best way to captivate the attention of readers.
You can also start with an absurd and disorienting line to disconcert readers and encourage them to continue reading in order to find sense to that inconsistency.
There are many ways to start a novel, but you need to be patient, as it could take longer than what you might expect. But never forget, this is the first hook to catch attention, and in many cases the first hook is the only one. So, think carefully!