beginning of a book, part one

Photo by Iryna Yeroshko

You know that well-worn, well-loved book that you’ve read many times? Simply turning to the first page and reading the opening line brings you into the story. And when you reach that final page and the very last sentence, the story melts away, leaving you content—or perhaps wanting just a bit more.

An intriguing beginning and a strong ending act as bookends to any good story. So how do you craft memorable first and last lines?

Once Upon a Time… Happily Ever After

1. Avoid clichés.

First and foremost, don’t rely on clichés like “It was a dark and stormy night” or “And they lived happily ever after.” Where’s the fun in that? The key to writing a beginning and ending that sticks with your readers long after they finish reading is coming up with something unique, something that couldn’t work in any other story.

2. Use vivid imagery.

To pull readers in from the start and leave them with an unforgettable end, describe what’s happening with clear and colorful language. Show them the world of your story, make them feel like they’re a part of it, and introduce them to the setting, the main character, the overarching theme—whatever element makes your story stand out.

3. Find the right moment.

You don’t have to start at the beginning or finish at the end. Stories often aren’t chronological, so play with different points in your story and see what works best. Sometimes it pays off to set the stage a bit, and other times, it’s best to throw your reader right into the action. And when it comes to the end, consider whether you want to leave your reader thinking about the past, the present, or the future of your narrative.

4. Be bold and powerful.

Short sentences and declarative statements add a punch. Think of them as punctuation marks that set off your story. If you pulled the first and last lines and made them into a poster, would they be able to stand alone? What do they say about the story as a whole? What emotions do they convey to your readers? Write confidently and with authority and your reader will trust you to take them along for the ride.

What makes a great beginning or ending? What are your favorite first and last lines?


Write a beginning and an ending. You could write a single sentence for each or a couple of paragraphs, but work on your practice for about fifteen minutes.

When you’re finished, please share your practice in the comments section. And if you post, please respond to some of the other comments too!

Melissa Tydell is a freelance writer, content consultant, and blogger who enjoys sharing her love of the written word with others. You can connect with Melissa through her website, blog, or Twitter.

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