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Why the Opening Line in Picture Books is Everything: Plus 3 Ways of Writing it

Let’s be clear: Children are intelligent human beings. They want to learn something new and exciting and different every single day. They don’t hold anything back. And their attention spans are a lot shorter than ours, usually. So, the picture book you plan to write (or in the process of writing) needs to grab their attention. Fast. And that is why the opening line(s) or paragraph(s) are essential in picture books.

The opening of a picture book is to draw readers and listeners into the story — and to keep them there. It sets the tone for the rest of the story and is the first (and sometimes, only) opportunity for authors to make a first impression on their audience.

How To Write Your Opening Line or Paragraph

Here are three quick, effective ways of writing the opening of your book without boring your audience from the start:

  1. Start with the conflict your character is facing. The beginning sets the foundation for the story as it provides backstory information and introduces characters. But let the character’s conflict take center stage immediately and give your readers and listeners a little suspense and twists to the story early on.

  2. Create an action scene that depicts the character in motion, facing their conflict. Instead of saving all the action for the middle of the plot, add a small dose of action in the opening to get readers and listeners excited. Plus, the action scene may make them wonder why all the action was occurring in the first place, which may encourage them to want more of the story.

  3. Show the character reacting to someone or something that relates to the conflict. This type of opening will then evoke a reaction from your audience, which increases engagement, curiosity, and empathy for the character.

Don’t be afraid to write different openings! Be creative and explore ways of catching the attention of your audience quickly. Writing the opening line(s) or paragraph(s) can be, by far, the most difficult part in writing a picture book. But it’s super important for picture books, and once the opening is perfected, the rest of the story can fall into place.

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