Which Is The Better Opening Line – And WHY?

  1. Every drum was silent as the noose slipped over his head and tightened around his neck.

  2. Every drum was silent as the noose slipped over his head.

  3. Every drum was silent as the noose tightened around his neck.

Which is the better opening line – first? Second? Third? NONE?


And why is it better?


Comment below.

Published by Dan Alatorre AUTHOR

International bestselling author Dan Alatorre has 17 titles published in over a dozen languages. From Romance in Poggibonsi to action and adventure in the sci-fi thriller The Navigators, to comedies like Night Of The Colonoscopy: A Horror Story (Sort Of) and the heartwarming and humorous anecdotes about parenting in the popular Savvy Stories series, his knack for surprising audiences and making you laugh or cry - or hang onto the edge of your seat - has been enjoyed by audiences around the world. And you are guaranteed to get a page turner every time. “That’s my style,” Dan says. “Grab you on page one and then send you on a roller coaster ride, regardless of the story or genre.” Readers agree, making his string of #1 bestsellers popular across the globe. He will make you chuckle or shed tears, sometimes on the same page. His novels always contain twists and turns, and his nonfiction will stay in your heart forever. Dan resides in the Tampa area with his wife and daughter. You can find him blogging away almost every day on www.DanAlatorre or watch his hilarious YouTube show every week Writers Off Task With Friends. Dan’s marketing book 25 eBook Marketing Tips You Wish You Knew has been a valuable tool for new authors (it’s free if you subscribe to his newsletter) and his dedication to helping other authors is evident in his helpful blog.

43 thoughts on “Which Is The Better Opening Line – And WHY?

  1. Neither. The REAL first sentence is “Every drum was silent.” you don’t need “and”, go straight to “The noose slipped over his head.” Then “He felt it tighten around his neck.”
    A three sentence opening sequence with punch. Or you could begin with “The drums fell silent”.

    The drums fell silent. The noose slipped over his head. He felt it tighten around his neck.

      1. It really depends whether ‘he’ is the protagonist (who will escape for the noose before long) or just some bloke the protagonist is observing. It was because I assumed the first option that I wanted the reader to feel that noose tightening.

  2. well, the third is less wordy because its evident the noose slipped over his head, but I sort of like the cadence of the first one. plus its a dramatic scene and the extra line gives me more time to soak it in.

  3. If I had to pick from these three I’d pick the third. The noose tightening around the neck is a closer vicarious experience. But if it were my story I’d make it two sentences (as Frank pointed out).
    The drums fell silent. The noose tightened around his neck.
    Or if you want less choppy and more sensory:
    As the drummer’s final bang echoed across the silent crowd, the coarse rope tightened around Bob’s neck.

  4. The first one is too wordy: …the noose slipped over his head…

    I like the third one. It gives me the feeling that the drums are about to startup and add an audio element to the action.

  5. I prefer the third – I think the first is too long and the third option is more dramatic and assumes the second. Personally a prefer one medium length sentence to two or three shorter ones, but that’s just me. Shorter sentences are more dramatic, but I prefer a more flowing sentence.

      1. Good. And, do you agree? This summer I read a book on E.B. White. He struggled for a year on the opening sentence of “Charlotte’s Web”. If you read his drafts, you see that he just “got to it” and cut to the chase… much like #3.

        1. I love that kind of thing. I often keep any notes and any first drafts and second drafts because just in case I get famous… I think it’s cool to go back and look at how things started.

          Sometimes when I’m struggling, it’s fun for me to go back and look at how I started the navigators, one of my more popular stories. Allison changed the beginning of her bestseller. We all do it it’s fun to see the evolution.

          1. It is definitely fun to see the evolution, Dan. It’s critical in children’s books, because there are far fewer words. Every word is a gem. Best to you!

  6. Number 3 because the word “ tightened” grabbed me right away as a sensation. I got lost with the other two.

  7. Depends what happens next. If something happens between the slipping and tightening, then #2. If not, #3. But as someone else said, #1 has a nice cadence. If pushed, I would go for #3.

  8. This is interesting because each option and the comments open up worlds of possibility. It depends where we are going.
    You could have the dramatic messenger from the governor/general with a stay of execution, or you could have a swash buckling rescue. You could have the end of a life, and as Frank suggest a protagonist watching, or the start of a novel which is a backstory as to how the person on the scaffold got there.
    With these in mind I’d tend to go for something stark. ‘The drums were silent’ that is always atmospheric and sets the grim scene. Then next sentence ‘The noose embraced the neck’. Two short sharp statements, sets the scene and the rest is ‘ready to rock’

  9. Interestingly, I too thought the same as Frank when I read through the options.

    “Every drum fell silent.” thrusts an immediate tension upon the reader, pushing them into a thorny bush of queries they’ll invariably tumble out of into the second sentence.

    Why are there drums? Why were they playing? How were they playing? Why did they stop? Did they stop in unison? What would make them do that? When does that usually happen? Oh damn, I’m reading the next sentence now and it’s becoming clearer. This guy’s in trouble.

    If I had to pick one, however, I’d probably go with number 3 because it’s the leanest. It implies that the rope must have been slipped over his head at one point before it was tightened, so we don’t need the added detail. It also encapsulates the more pressing of the two concerns — a noose slipped on, as in 2, can also be slipped off before it goes any further.

    Additionally, omitting the action at this point opens up a new time dimension, as the noose might have been sitting around his neck throughout the thunderous drum roll. For whose benefit? An audience?

    Maybe I’m reading into the possibilities too much, but I now have a scene in my head where an example is being made of this person. There’s the aspect of a macabre performance for the masses and final punishment of drawn-out shaming for the executed. It isn’t over too quickly. The readers have never known this person to be free — the noose has been there from the beginning of our brief relationship with the character. That will then colour any and every flashback with pathos, stepping stones towards a tragic demise.

    1. That’s a lot of information drawn from one sentence, but I would say you pretty much nailed it. This is an execution, circa 1750s or so, in one of the islands of the American colonies, and it is a military execution of a type of pirate.

  10. I agree with others about breaking that sentence up. (I’d pick #3 but make the first sentence “Every drum was silent.” Or “The drums fell silent.” Then…move on and hang him.) 😉

        1. Love your reference Sarah. Hook them quick, they will keep hitting the page for more.

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