I grew up reading Stephen King and I recently stumbled on some of his advice and tips for writing.
He has authored over 100 books and one piece of wisdom that resonated strongly with me was to write a compelling first line, but not just as advice for writing.
“There are all sorts of theories,” he says, “it’s a tricky thing.” “But there’s one thing” he’s sure about: “An opening line should invite the reader to begin the story. It should say: Listen. Come in here. You want to know about this.”
Stories are like worlds that we are invited into – they possess their own rules and laws, in the same way games draw you in. Stories are part of play and maybe an instigator of it or an extension.
[Children] negotiate and choose and build together under what seem to be a silent set of rules encoded deep inside them. The social aspect of immersive physical play just feeds the imaginations at work and you see worlds evolve and collapse, characters develop and disappear in quick succession.
As King suggests the first line is an invitation. As a teacher this might be the first interaction in a school day, or the opening activity of a period of learning. Crucial moments to draw learners in and engage their curiosity.
But Stephen King also states how important it is for the writer to orientate themselves, as it would be for the teacher – finding places where we can start learning together.
We’ve talked so much about the reader, but you can’t forget that the opening line is important to the writer, too. To the person who’s actually boots-on-the-ground. Because it’s not just the reader’s way in, it’s the writer’s way in also, and you’ve got to find a doorway that fits us both.