How to Create an Engaging Opening

A captivating opening is like the opening scene of a movie or the first bite of a good meal. Its purpose is to set the tone for the rest of the reader’s experience. It’s the first chance to hook your reader’s attention, immerse them in your world, and introduce them to your characters.

The Importance of a Strong Opening


The opening lines of your story play a crucial role in setting your reader’s expectations. They establish the whole narrative voice, tone and entire mood of your story. A well-crafted opening can intrigue, shock or delight, depending on your goals. Whatever the case, it’s all about creating a strong impression that keeps readers turning pages.

Elements of an Engaging Opening

If you have these key parts, you’ve got a winning opening.

The Hook

The hook is the first sentence or paragraph that grabs the reader’s attention and draws them into the story.

Example from “Ancient Hearts” by Candace Osmond

Love was a complex creature. An ever-changing beast of emotions and promises. And, like the gluttons for pain we are, we crave love as it craves us and then die with it when we let it burn out.

I knew this. I wasn’t a fool.

But as I stood there on the terrace of my father’s old Victorian townhouse and drank in the otherworldly beauty of the man before me, I happily accepted my fate. I’d let my love for him set me afire until there was nothing left but a pile of ash.

He was so worth the burn.

This immediately tells the reader that it’s a Romance and to expect everything that comes with reading a Romance. By using terms like “otherworldly,” it also hints that there may be an element of Fantasy.

Setting the Scene

The opening should also establish the setting of your story. This doesn’t mean you should overwhelm your reader with details, but give them enough to start forming an image in their minds.

Example from “Silently Into the Night” by Candace Osmond

The clocks did not stop. No guardian angel took her by the hand. Nor did her life flash before her eyes. The only light in the living room was dappled, orange-red and gloomy; the last slivers of sunset peeking in through her old, nicotine-yellowed window blinds.

In less than three lines, I’ve set the whole scene in terms of sight, smell, touch and even mood.

Introducing the Main Character

The opening often introduces the protagonist, giving readers an insight into who they will be following throughout the story.

Example from “The Wayward Witches” by Candace Osmond

Being a witch had its ups and downs. But, if you asked Lenora, it would mostly be ups. She delighted in her ability to wield the powers of the Earth and use her goddess-given beauty to lure men.

In just two opening lines, I’ve established who the character is, the fact that she’s a witch (which also sets the genre) and what her goals are.

The Different Types of Story Openings

  1. Action: The story starts in the middle of a dramatic event.
  2. Dialogue: The story begins with an intriguing conversation.
  3. Description/Setting: The story opens by painting a vivid picture of the surroundings.
  4. Reflection: The narrator shares a personal insight or memory.
  5. Announcement: The narrator makes a surprising statement or revelation.

Crafting the Hook: Strategies and Examples

Creating a powerful hook often involves surprise, mystery, conflict or an unusual image. Your hook could be a surprising fact, a question or a bold statement that challenges the reader’s expectations.

Building the Opening Scene: Setting and Character Introduction

The opening scene should set the stage for the rest of your story. It’s not only about describing the setting or introducing your characters but also about setting the tone and atmosphere of your story.

Balancing Mystery and Clarity in Your Opening

While it’s important to intrigue your readers, you also want to avoid confusing them. Provide enough information to set the scene and introduce the characters, but maintain enough mystery to encourage them to read more.

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Crafting Your Opening

  • Starting with a character waking up
  • Overloading with backstory or exposition
  • Using clichés or predictable phrases
  • Starting too slow and not hooking the reader

Tips for Writing an Engaging Opening

  • Start with an intriguing action, statement or question
  • Set the tone and mood of your story
  • Introduce your main character(s)
  • Establish the setting without overwhelming with details
  • Avoid clichés and predictable openings

A compelling opening is the key to hooking your reader from the start. By incorporating these techniques and avoiding common pitfalls, you can create an opening that is irresistible to your readers.