“I cut my bangs with some rusty kitchen scissors…”
Those are the very first words of the Miranda Lambert song, Mama’s Broken Heart. Every single time I hear it, I’m like, “I can totally see that girl. I know who that is. I know what she’s feeling, where she’s probably going, and who she’s after.” And it’s not because I’ve ever been there or done that.
It’s one of my favorite openings ever because less than ten words in and you have to know the rest of the story.
And then I sit there, awestruck, and try to come up with my own attention grabbing openings. It’s really tough, y’all. 😉
I think to accomplish a great opening line, it helps to identify your strength. What do you feel most confident about in your writing? What gives you that thrill inside when you’re in your zone? Are you great at Dialogue, Characters, Emotion, Action, Grief, Humor, Mystery? Whatever it is, make that the primary focus of the first words on your page. Or answer this question: What is something you’ve seen in your lifetime that you’ve never ever forgotten? Something that you can close your eyes and even though it may have happened when you were a kid, it’s still very familiar and still means something to you?
My strength, for example, is dark emotion. Usually, the first bits I get of stories are these little emotional hits. Here are a couple rough openings I’ve come up with and keep in my files for upcoming stories:
“Death had coddled my babies and nursed my gram and pops.”
“He saves his tears for his brothers.”
And here are a couple of my favorite book openings:
My brother, Orrin Sackett, was big enough to fight bears with a switch. Opening line from Louis L’Amour’s The Daybreakers.
(Y’all, I’m not kidding, “Mama’s Broken Heart” just started playing on the radio as I’m typing this.)
“But mother is always dying.” Opening line from Lauraine Snelling’s On Hummingbird Wings.
What are some of your favorite first lines, whether from a song or a book or a poem?
For the writers out there, do you have a particular opening of your own you’d like to share with us? How do you decide the very first words to your stories?
Were you by chance curious to know how that Miranda song ends?
…Well, this ain’t my mama’s broken heart...