How to Write an Opening Statement That Hooks Your Reader: Tips and Tricks for Fiction Writers

Relay Publishing
7 min readOct 25, 2023

If you’re a fiction writer, you know that writing a captivating opening statement is crucial for engaging your readers from the very beginning.

Your opening statement is the first impression that your readers will have of your story, and it can make or break their interest in reading further.

But how do you create one that hooks your reader and keeps them engaged?

In this article, we’ll explore the key elements that make up a great opening statement, as well as common mistakes to avoid. We’ll also provide you with some tips and tricks for crafting an opening statement that grabs your reader’s attention and draws them into your story.

But before we dive into the specifics, let’s take a moment to understand why the opening statement is so important in the first place.

In today’s fast-paced world, readers have a lot of options when it comes to choosing what to read.

Whether it’s a physical book, an e-book, or an audio book, readers are bombarded with an endless stream of content and it’s up to you as a fiction writer to make sure your story stands out from the crowd.

Your opening statement is the first thing that your readers will see in your piece, and it’s your chance to make a strong first impression.

A well-crafted opening statement can captivate your readers’ attention, set the tone for your story, and establish the characters and setting. On the other hand, a weak opening statement can turn your readers off and cause them to put down your book.

In short, the opening statement is your opportunity to hook your reader and keep them engaged from the very beginning. So, how do you write an opening statement that does just that? Let’s find out next.

What is an Opening Statement?

An opening statement in a fiction book is the initial part of your story that serves as the gateway into the world you’ve created.

It’s the reader’s first experience of your writing style, your characters, and the overall atmosphere of your book.

A well-crafted opening statement has the power to engage your reader, pique their interest, and convince them to embark on the journey you’ve laid out in the pages ahead.

A good opening statement should:

  • Introduce your story: Set the stage for the rest of the plot by hinting at the central conflict or theme.
  • Establish the narrative voice: Your opening statement is where you introduce your reader to the narrator or point of view character, setting the tone for the rest of the book.
  • Create an emotional connection: Whether it’s through humor, curiosity, or empathy, your opening statement should evoke a reaction from your reader, encouraging them to invest in your story.
  • Set the pacing: A great opening statement can foreshadow the rhythm and pacing of the book, giving your reader an idea of what to expect in terms of storytelling.

In essence, the opening statement is your chance to make a strong first impression, inviting your reader into the world you’ve built and enticing them to come along for the ride.

Key Elements of a Great Opening Statement

To write a great opening statement, you need to include the following key elements:

Hook

Your opening statement should start with a hook that grabs your reader’s attention and makes them curious about what’s to come. A hook can be a surprising fact, an intriguing question, or a vivid description.

For example:

  • “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.” — Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice
  • “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.” — J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

Character Introduction

Introducing your characters early on in the opening statement can help your reader connect with them and become invested in their story. It’s important to give just enough information to create interest without overwhelming the reader.

For example:

  • “Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.” — J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
  • “In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since.” — F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

Setting and Atmosphere

Creating a vivid setting and atmosphere in your opening statement can transport your reader into your story and help them visualize the scene. It can also set the tone for your story and create an emotional connection with your reader.

For example:

  • “It was a dark and stormy night.” — Edward Bulwer-Lytton, Paul Clifford
  • “The sun shone, having no alternative, on the nothing new.” — Samuel Beckett, Murphy

Common Mistakes to Avoid in the Opening Statement

While it’s important to include the key elements in your opening statement, there are also some common mistakes that you should avoid:

1. Overloading with information

You don’t want to overwhelm your reader with too much information in the opening statement. Keep it simple and let the story unfold gradually.

2. Starting too slow or too fast

You want to find the right balance between starting your story too slow, which can bore your reader, and starting too fast, which can confuse them. Make sure to give just enough information to pique their interest.

3. Using cliches and generic language

Using cliches or generic language can make your opening statement seem uninspired and unoriginal. Try to come up with unique and creative ways to introduce your story.

4. Failing to set the tone and genre

Your opening statement should give your reader a sense of the tone and genre of your story. If your opening statement is misleading or unclear, your reader may be disappointed or confused.

Tips and Tricks for Writing an Engaging Opening Statement

Now that you understand the key elements and the common mistakes to avoid when writing an opening statement, it’s time to explore some tips and tricks for writing an engaging one.

Here are some suggestions to help you craft an opening statement that captivates your readers:

Write and rewrite until it’s right

Writing a great opening statement often requires multiple drafts and revisions. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different approaches and styles until you find the one that works best for your story.

Take the time to review and edit your work, and don’t settle for anything less than your best.

Focus on the reader’s experience

Think about how your reader will experience your opening statement. Will it be exciting, intriguing, or suspenseful? Will it evoke a specific emotion or feeling?

Consider the desired effect you want your opening statement to have on your reader and craft it accordingly. By focusing on the reader’s experience, you can create an opening statement that resonates with them and makes them want to read more.

Keep it concise and clear

Your opening statement should be concise and clear. Avoid overly complicated sentences or confusing language that could distract or confuse your reader. Use simple and direct language to convey your ideas, and avoid unnecessary details that could bog down your story.

Experiment with different approaches and styles

There are many ways to approach an opening statement, and what works for one story may not work for another.

Try experimenting with different hooks, character introductions, and settings to find what works best for your story. Don’t be afraid to try new things and take risks in your writing.

In Conclusion

Crafting an engaging opening statement is an essential element of fiction writing that can determine the success of your book.

The opening statement is your opportunity to capture your reader’s attention, establish the tone and genre of your story, and introduce your characters and setting.

Having said that, writing an opening statement takes time and effort. It’s a process of trial and error that may involve multiple drafts and revisions.

But with patience and perseverance, you’ll be able to create an opening statement that sets your story apart, captures your reader’s imagination, and it leaves your reader eager to turn the page and discover what comes next.

Harry Wallett is the Founder and Managing Director of Relay Publishing. Combining his entrepreneurial background with a love of great stories, Harry founded Relay in 2013 as a fresh way to create books and for writers to earn a living from their work. Since then, Relay has sold 3+ million copies and worked with 100s of writers on bestselling titles such as Defending Innocence, The Alveria Dragon Akademy Series and Rancher’s Family Christmas. Harry oversees the creative direction of the company, and works to develop a supportive collaborative environment for the Relay team to thrive within in order to fulfill our mission to create unputdownable books.

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Republished with permission from Relay Publishing

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Relay Publishing

Relay has founded a collaborative environment for literary creatives to exercise their skillset and develop their craft across a multitude of fiction genres.