Writing flash fiction is not an easy feat. But picking the right opening (especially the opening line) is amongst my favourite things when it comes to crafting brief but poignant stories.
I write a new flash fiction story every week and publish it on this blog every Friday. The main challenge is fitting a middle, beginning and end into 300-500 words…which is how short my flash fiction stories are. It started out with 300 words as the limit but the muse is a fickle mistress and, when I am inspired, even 500 words don’t feel like much room to play with!
Before I start writing, I always make sure that I have decided three essential things:
Once I have all of this straight, I write a brief outline – that’s the only way I can write on demand. Feel free to skip this step if you’re a pantser (I hear ‘discovery writer‘ is a more polite term for this in the writing community nowadays).
Armed with my outline and notes, I go straight to the opening line. Yes, that’s right. I don’t give my story a title until the very end. The reason for this is that even with my outline, there is no guarantee that I will actually stick to it. I use it to ‘cheapen’ the blank page and get me typing.
The most important part in choosing an opening line is to find a hook…your first sentence should be a statement that leaves the reader with one or more questions at the end of the first sentence. This is to signal that this story is worth reading. You are making a promise to your reader. For example:
She sat on her throne; unmoved for centuries.‘Mythless’ by Josie Cole (@josiecolewrites)
License: Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)
Would you read the rest of this story? I hope so. The questions that most readers will probably be asking themselves after this opening line are 1. Who is ‘she’? and 2. Why has she been unmoved for centuries? See how I did that? By using this opening line, I am promising the reader that I will reveal more information about this character if he/she/they keep reading.
Now, it’s your turn! Stop reading this post and go write a flash fiction with a killer opening line.
See ya next time 😉
If this post inspires a story, let me know in the comments below. And please remember to post a link to your work, too. I would love to read it.