How to Begin

Get started.

Now there’s an opening line.

Have you wondered how to get to the point fast in your blog posts?

Well, think big – that is, challenge the reader, or demand something of your reader. Then elaborate on your argument. Novelists do it all the time.

Consider these great openings:

Call me Ishmael.”

” It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.”

“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.”

“They threw me off the hay truck about noon.”

You’ve probably recognized those sentences from Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca and James M. Cain’s The Postman Always Rings Twice. Sure, these are novels, not blogs.

But openings are important no matter what you write.

Look at the thinking behind the four opening sentences from these noted novels: Melville begins by placing the protagonist as a witness to events, and his name, Ishmael, is a biblical reference to his prophetic and wandering nature. We know immediately that we are being drawn into a heightened universe of symbols, told with the immediacy of someone who claims to have been there.

In Jane Austen’s first sentence, we see already the ironic humor that was one of her trademarks, introducing us to a knowing, comic worldview.

In the opening sentence from Du Maurier, we have a dream and a place, and are thus given a hint that this the narrator will tell us about a regretful lost world: there’s mystery and allure.

In James M. Cain’s punchy sentence, we are immediately given the point of view of a hardboiled drifter, someone who apparently rolls with the punches.

All this from a few words?


So, how do you go about crafting a great opening line? If you’re creating a platform for your ideas,  you will want to expand your reach, and so you will want to make sure your writing is punchy and powerful.

First of all, think of a way to grab your reader. For examples beyond these I’ve cited here, look at a newspaper or magazine you like, and see what professional writers do: they always try to create a striking first impression by pulling you into their article. (I realize that your blog is more attraction than promotion, but good writing can be both.) They aim to upend expectations: look at something from a new angle so that you continue moving ahead into the article.

Challenge, amuse, intrigue or irritate your reader: you want readers to find out what you’re going to say. So say it upfront in a way that will make them want to see how you elaborate what your argument is.

Next, we’ll look at closings.

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One Response to “How to Begin”

  1. Anonymous May 22, 2012 at 10:54 am #

    Sounds like a fun challenge!

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