Great Quotations about Opening Lines

“Bring all your intelligence to bear on your beginning.” – Elizabeth Bowen

“The best advice on writing I’ve ever received is, ‘Knock ‘em dead with that lead sentence.’” – Whitney Balliett

“An opening line should invite the reader to begin the story. It should say: Listen. Come in here. You want to know about this.” – Stephen King

“The last thing we discover in composing a work is what to put down first.” – Blaise Pascal

“Great is the art of beginning, but greater is the art of ending.” – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

“Get your character is trouble in the first sentence and out of trouble in the last sentence.” – Barthe DeClements

“Make everybody fall out of the plane first, and then explain who they were and why they were in the plane to begin with.” –Nancy Ann Dibble

“If you start with a bang, you won’t end with a whimper.” – T.S. Eliot

“In nearly all good fiction, the basic – all but inescapable – plot form is this: A central character wants something, goes after it despite opposition (perhaps including his own doubts), and so arrives at a win, lose, or draw.” – John Gardner

“Don’t mistake a good setup for a satisfying conclusion – many beginning writers end their stories when the real story is just ready to begin.” – Stanley Schmidt

“It begins with a character, usually, and once he stands up on his feet and begins to move, all I can do is trot along behind him with a paper and pencil trying to keep up long enough to put down what he says and does.” – William Faulkner

“First, find out what your hero wants, then just follow him!” – Ray Bradbury

“One of my many theories about short stories is that their titles and first lines ought to be memorable, because if not memorable they will not be remembered, and if not remembered the stories will not be reprinted (because no one can find them).” – Damon Knight

“I try to create sympathy for my characters, then turn the monsters loose.” – Stephen King

“The first chapter sells the book; the last chapter sells the next book.” – Mickey Spillane


My name is Rob Bignell. I’m an affordable, professional editor who runs Inventing Reality Editing Service, which meets the manuscript needs of writers both new and published. I also offer a variety of self-publishing services. During the past decade, I’ve helped more than 300 novelists and nonfiction authors obtain their publishing dreams at reasonable prices. I’m also the author of the 7 Minutes a Day… writing guidebooks, four nonfiction hiking guidebook series, and the literary novel Windmill. Several of my short stories in the literary and science fiction genres also have been published.