Sunday, 3 March 2013

Opening Lines

Writers are often told to make sure their opening lines are as catchy as possible.  Hook the readers and make them want to continue.  This is all sound advice but we should consider that the opening line of the story isn't always the first sentence that follows 'Chapter 1' - quite often it's the title of the book itself.

My current WIP started life with a working title of 'Bad Things Will Happen.'  Initially I was quite happy for this to become the final title.  Then the doubt set in.  As the story progressed and became darker I decided that the original title was too light weight.  It was starting to come across as the title of a YA novel.  While I'm not specifically aiming the story at the adult market, I don't want to give potential readers the wrong impression about the theme of the story either.

With this in mind I began to think about the underlying basis of the story - the 'hook' if you like.  This led me to a really appropriate title.  Unfortunately, when I checked on Amazon, lots of other people had the same or similar ideas.  This was not good.  As well as being closely tied to the theme of the story , I wanted the title to be unique (or as much as possible).  Finally I came up with 'Darkest Corners of the Mind.'  Quite a departure from the working title, but one which is strongly indicative of the nature of the story to follow.

Sometimes a more subtle change of title is needed to give the right tone to the story.  My first novel took its title from a line of dialogue. Originally, this was 'Dead Men Cast No Shadows.'  Right from the start though, I felt that there was something not quite right about this.  I didn't want to alter the title completely but something needed changing about it.  It took quite a while for the penny to drop.  The title was making me think of 1950's detective stories.  This was completely wrong.  Readers would be very disappointed if they thought the same and bought the book expecting a gumshoe story - it's actually about the after life.  A slight edit to the title gave me 'The Dead Have No Shadows' which, I hope, gives the right impression.

Both of these titles have taken some thinking about.  The title for my next project has been much easier to decide on.  Without a single word being written, I've decided that my third novel will be called 'Green Eye' - but you'll have to wait for another day to find out why.


  1. My titles are easy since my books are an alphabetical series and all begin with "The Dog Who Ate The" and all I have to do is come up with the final word which, so far, has been easy. Airplane, Burglar, Crossbow, and the 4th will be Drawing (virtually finished).

  2. Title are always hard. I can work with a title for months or years, only to change it at the end. Some good advice I was given was 'never ues a title people can't pronounce or spell', thus my 'Nephilim's Child' became 'Sons of Angels'