In the beginning...

The first few paragraphs, if not the first sentence, of a novel have to grab the reader instantly if they are to continue reading. If they're not hooked immediately, then the book they've picked out will go back on the shelf with its competition. And let's face it - there is one hell of a lot of competition to run against.

So do you go for a quirky opening, drama, or perhaps a philosophical comment? Here are two of my favourite openers.

A headless corpse was floating on the ornamental pond. It troubled the view and it troubled the ducks and it troubled the two park rangers.

taken from 'The Da-Da De-Da-Da Code' by Robert Rankin

What a killer (if you'll excuse the pun) of a start - brilliant! It grabs your attention and hints at the humour and quirkiness that is to follow and a mystery to be solved.

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.

taken from 'Pride and Prejudice' by Jane Austen

This statement instantly points to the domestic nature of the novel and the opinion of the writer and therefore likely the world that the novel is placed in. It raises the expectation that a romance will ensue with just such a single man.

My own novel, Split opens with one of the main characters in a dangerous situation.

The door shut behind her. The room was dimly lit, shadows reaching in from the corners. It smelt of bleach and urine and death.

My aim was to cause the reader to feel what the character felt - fear, foreboding - and by this sympathy to care enough to find out what happened to them by reading on.

Have a look at the openings to some of your favourite novels and find out how they grabbed you.

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