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Today we’re going to be talking about what goes in the beginning of your story.

You must invite the reader into your book so that they sit down, stay put and don’t stop reading.

To discover how to write a good beginning, think about what it feels like when you start reading a novel and know you’re going to love it. What has the writer done to create that response?

Good books start the story right in the middle of the action.

Beginnings must have:

  • Fascinating characters
  • Engaging plot ideas
  • Intriguing settings and circumstances
  • Wonderful writing


Audio From Kim Wilkins – An Invitation To The Reader


What does a beginning need? Listen or download the audio below for this week’s lesson about creating a beginning that will keep your reader reading.

Don’t forget to download the audio notes below too (available in PDF or Word format) before you listen to this week’s lesson so you can take notes.



PDF (right click and ‘Save As’): Audio Notes – Lesson 3 – An Invitation To The Reader

Word Doc (right click and ‘Save As’): Audio Notes – Lesson 3 – An Invitation To The Reader


As mentioned, beginnings should have four key elements:



You need to let the reader know about your characters in a way that shows rather than tells.

  • Don’t overwhelm the reader, or try too hard.
  • Establish who the view point characters are.
  • Make your characters fascinating enough for the reader to keep reading.



  • Define what is at stake.
  • What kinds of events will structure the story?
  • What does the reader need to know about the setting?
  • Make the setting rich enough so that people will want to spend time there.
  • Have scenes that introduce the conflict.



  • Make the circumstances of the story interesting enough so that the reader gets a sense of how the setting will impact the story and how it will raise the stakes.



  • Use a style of writing that is consistent from the beginning of the book until the end.


Always remember that you are here to please the reader and serve the story.

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red avatar 5EXERCISE: Your Favourite Opening Lines

The start of your novel has to invite the reader in, and persuade them to stay. It has to pique their interest in a way that also reflects the genre you are writing in.


Of course she was anxious. She had never planned a murder before.’Lesson 3 YON


This is the opening line from ‘Gold Dust’ by Kimberly Freeman.

What we see in this sentence is:

  • A direct narrative hook;
  • A sense of the character’s relationship with that dramatic event (she is anxious);
  • A sense of wider conflict, premise and context, and;
  • Dramatic tension.



  1. Identify your favourite opening lines. Look through some of your favourite books and think about why the opening lines persuaded you to continue reading. What was it about those words, those lines that created a satisfying invitation to you, the reader?
  2. Post an example of the first 4 -5 of these lines on the Opening Lines Forum to share with your classmates. Explain to the group why you think these lines work so well.
  3. Read your classmates favourite opening lines and post a reply comment on 4 or 5 of them.  In your comment explain if you understand what they have understood in the opening. Explain what you understand.

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red avatar 5EXERCISE: Your Opening Paragraphs

  • Write an opening  of 1-2 paragraphs for your story (no more than 300 words)
  • Submit to your tutor by email to this address: [email protected]
  • Make sure your subject heading is: ‘YONline – [Insert Your Name Here]’. If you do not appropriately label your email as specified in the subject heading you may not receive feedback on your piece.

Click here to return to the YONline home page.

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