11 Must-Have Elements of Your Story’s Opening

As you write and edit your story’s opening lines, make sure they achieve the following:

Use a Great Opening Hook
Establish both conflict and mood in the very first sentence; focusing on conflict usually gives your opening lines more energy.

Introduce the Protagonist
This “greeting” should provide just enough information that the reader feels the protagonist is interesting to follow.

Start in the Middle
Rather than give background information about how the story’s main conflict came to be, instead drop the reader right into the hornet’s nest.

Establish the Setting
Give concrete details showing the place and time in which the plot unfolds; this helps anchor the story.

Introduce the Central Problem
The central problem is the broad or central conflict that the main character must resolve before the story is over; it sets the story in motion.

Hint at Protagonist’s Internal Motivations
Give personal reasons why the protagonist would want to resolve the central problem.

Hint at Protagonist’s Intentions
Suggest the step your main character plans to take to deal with the story’s central problem.

Deliver Some Mysterious Element
Rather than write humdrum information about a character or a setting, give the reader a situation that is out of the ordinary or that is fraught with conflict; that is, hint at some mysterious element.

Establish Point of View
Every story has an angle or perspective – aka point of view – from which it is told. Which point of view you select deeply affects the way the story can be told.

Hint at Theme
A proposition that is argued or an aspect of human experience that is examined is your story’s theme; include underlying values that allow your theme to be revealed.

Set Tone for Story
Each story expresses an emotional climate or tone; creating tone involves a complex array of techniques such as diction, pacing and color.


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.