Last week I wrote about using opening lines from favorite picture books as examples for students of different ways to begin a story or an essay. The problem was that there were so many choices I couldn’t narrow it down to enough for one blog post. So, “Opening Lines” is now a series of three. The first one was about opening lines that introduce the setting.
This time, I’ll show you examples of opening lines that introduce a character. Beginning by introducing a character would be a good option for students writing fiction, narrative non-fiction, biographical, or autobiographical essays. Here are a few good examples.
• “My dad and I live in an airport.” (Opening line from Fly Away Home by Eve Bunting) Short, simple, and straightforward, but this opening sentence suggests a lot about his this boy and his dad might be living. Students can note that they don’t need to tell everything in the first sentence, just enough to pique some interest.
• “It was late one winter night, long past my bedtime, when Pa and I went owling.” (Opening line from Owl Moon by Jane Yolen) Another simple statement that doesn’t say too much, but it suggests a special family relationship.
• “Out in the hottest, dustiest part of town is an orphanage run by a female person nasty enough to scare night into day.” (Opening line from Saving Sweetness by Diane Stanley) Doesn’t it make you want to know more about this “female person”? And it’s a good example of using figurative language, too, with the hyperbole, “nasty enough to scare night into day.”
• “You ever hear of the jazz-playin’ man, the man with the cats who could swing with his band?” (Opening line from Duke Ellington by Andrea Davis Pinkney) This opening line introduces Duke Ellington with vocabulary that gives the flavor of the jazz age.
• “As soon as his parents kissed him goodbye and left, Gorky set up his laboratory by the kitchen sink and got to work.” (Opening line from Gorky Rises by William Steig) This one definitely sets the state for a tale about a character who is up to something!
Students can practice by writing opening lines that introduce a character in various ways:
1. Tell one fact that will generate interest.
2. Tell a little about the relationship between two characters.
3. Use figurative language to illustrate a characteristic.
4. Set the character in a specific time period.
5. Suggest what the character might be about to do.
Next time, I’ll write about more great opening lines that give a hint of what’s to come in the story, and if you have any suggestions for opening lines, I’d love to hear them. Just leave a comment.