Opening Sentences

If a title puts a door ajar so learners become curious to take a look at your story, then an opening sentence throws the door open and suggests to learners: Please, step inside and join me.

What is a good opening?

A good opening achieves 3 objectives:

  1. Explain what and who the story is about, and sometimes where and when it takes place
  2. Make learners curious to learn more.  By setting the scene, learners start picturing the story, and they want to know what happens next.
  3. Set the tone for the story.

Let’s see how this works in practice.  We’ll look at openings:

  1. Tim and Summer Parsons left university and started at two different companies on the same day.

We quickly learn that this story is about two people starting their career life at two different companies.  This sentence makes me curious.  What is going to happen to them?  Will they have different experiences?  Will these experiences be good or bad or different.

This is the beginning of a story about on-boarding experiences.

2. This will be 26 dollars, the woman says.  She’s carefully wrapping the steaming fish and chips in brown paper for us to take home.

Again, this opening line tells us who and what the story is about:  It’s about a woman, and she’s selling freshly fried fish and chips.  The curiosity factor is not as high as our first example.  But you may still wonder, why is this relevant and what happens next.

The opening sentence gives us the impression that this will be a warm and friendly story.  That’s not just because we nearly all love fish and chips.  There’s also the care given to the wrapping of the comfort food.

This is the beginning of a story about surprising customers with extra care.  The woman in the story adds another scoop of chips for free to surprise the customers.

3. The next example is from an early Apple sales page, they featured a story about how they tested Ear Pods when they were still new.  Here’s how that story started:

Apple engineers asked more than 600 people to test over 100 iterations of the Apple Ear Pods.

This opening line explains that the story is about 600 people, and they are testing the Apple Ear Pods.  It may arouse some curiosity as you may wonder what’ll happen with the tests, but the curiosity factor does not seem high here.

How to open your story:

The purpose of a story opening is to invite learners into your story.  You do this by setting the scene:  You explain who and what the story is about.  This often arouses curiosity, making learners want to know what is happening next.

The opening lines also set the tone for your story so it’s worth checking whether the tone feels right after you’ve written your story.  Usually its OK, unless you’re trying too hard.

If you’re struggling to write your opening line, try to put less pressure on yourself:

  • Write a temporary line and work it out later
  • Try a Once upon a time there were… opening, and jump right into the story
  • Reread some examples, and let yourself be inspired to follow their format.  As we’ve seen in this article most opening lines are straightforward.

Whatever you are writing for learning or for an article, have fun!

Recent Posts