Writing Workshop…Top Tips

Normal business on my blog will be resumed shortly but, in the meantime, I thought I’d take the opportunity to start a new series. Here’s the first in a series of writing workshops:

Top Tips…

For Creating A Cracking Short Story Opening

Hours can be spent tapping away at the computer keys, trying to come up with a gripping short story opening – one that will dazzle, amaze and astound. Here are some tips on how to make sure your story does just that:

  • Your opening paragraph has to grab your reader’s attention straight away. It’s no use filling it with lots of waffle. Your reader will switch off and move to another story.
  • There are several ways to hook your reader. Dialogue is a great tool:

 “I didn’t mean to do it. I’m not bad,” she said, her pale blue eyes awash with tears.  

“I’ve heard it all before. You’re not fooling anyone,” the man said scowling.

See how, as a reader, you’re privy to this conversation taking place and already feel part of the story. Your interest is also piqued. What didn’t she mean to do?

  • Shocking your reader is another effective opening, thrusting your reader right in. Here’s an example:

I knew she was dead even though the dull eyes stared back at me, mocking me, tempting me to raise the knife once more.

  • Just as a shocking opening can capture your reader’s interest, so can a humorous one:

No-one understood how lonely it was being stuck up a tree all on your own. Flora sighed and fluttered her wings. One barely moved and the other nearly fell off. She was sure fairies weren’t supposed to have problems like this.

  • Ensuring your reader feels part of the story through building up a strong sense of atmosphere makes a powerful beginning:

She peered through the darkness. It enveloped her, clinging to her, refusing to let her go. A thud to her left. Her head whipped round. Silence. Nothing there. She reached out her hand, took a step forward. Something tugged at her hair and the stench of rotting flesh filled her nostrils. She gagged, tears spilling from her eyes. She wasn’t alone.  

See how the hairs on your arms stand on end, as you read the passage, making you feel as if you’re right there with the character.

  • Addressing your reader directly compels them to feel part of your story:

Just one more, that’s all I was going to take. You know that, don’t you? You understand. Well, they didn’t. And they wouldn’t listen. Looked at me like I was dirt.

In the opening to this monologue, see how you feel as if the character is appealing to you personally and how involved you already feel in her tale.

  • Introducing your reader to your main character and making them care for that character guarantees that they become instantly involved in your story:

She looked at the big, balding man, her lower lip trembling. An adult would have known she wouldn’t make it to the stairs in time. She knew really but still she tried, the scream catching in her throat as hands grabbed her.

  • Whichever way you choose to open your story, you must leave your reader wanting to know more. Don’t feel as if you have to tell your reader everything in the opening paragraph. Leave them dangling, feeling compelled to read on.
  • Don’t make your opening paragraph too long. If your reader is faced with a big block of words, this will put them off straight away.
  • If the beginning of your story is littered with mistakes, it’s likely that the rest of your story is, too. A judge or editor won’t necessarily mind a mistake or two, but a lot and your story won’t succeed, even with a cracking opening. So, make sure you read your work through carefully.









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31 Responses to Writing Workshop…Top Tips

  1. Good tips – I am currently writing some 500 wonders and they too need to be immediate and gripping, even for such short stories. Thank you, Esther.


    Liked by 1 person

  2. Lynn Love says:

    Lovely to see you back Esther – have to been writing something wonderful while you were away? Sound advice here and some great suggestions on how to grab the reader. Many thanks 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Simon says:

    Nice to see to back here, I love the thought of you writing a series like this. I will be making sure I check in to read ☺️

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Jason Moody says:

    Typical. Esther dispenses these golden nuggets the morning after I submit my latest assignment ! 😂😂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. DrEMiller says:

    Reblogged this on Write of Passage and commented:
    Check out Esther Newton’s first Writing Workshop post! Lots more tips coming your way soon!
    Welcome back, Esther!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Helen says:

    Many thanks for these very helpful top tips, Esther. Look forward to reading more in the series. Haven’t made as much progress with my writing as hoped this year. Need to up my game!
    Your blog post is especially helpful therefore.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Great to see you back Esher, and what a wonderful new feature to start with. As a writer of short stories, I’ll certainly be taking on board everything you say. I look forward to reading your writing workshop posts.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Pingback: Writing Workshop…Top Tips | Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog

  9. edcwriting says:

    I read your ‘ending’ post first and now your ‘opening’ … both so full of good advice Esther … now for the middle … I’ve been there for ages!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Brilliant and informative, useful tips, it shows I am on the right lines 😃, thanks Esther, now for part two X

    Liked by 1 person

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  15. Simon says:

    Great advice as always, it’s pretty logical really.

    Liked by 1 person

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