Titles, Opening Lines, and Endings


There are a few books whose titles I consider to be brilliant (this might just be about personal preferences so…), such as:

Now, it’s obvious that a title can pique a reader’s interest enough so they actually open the book and try to read it. A great cover, an intriguing blurb, and a title that says something. I like titles that say something, even though I often choose for my own stories and novels simple titles (which is contradictory.)

My opinion?

A title is just a title. It doesn’t change the way a reader will feel about your book after he reads it. Yes, an interesting title is as good a marketing ploy as any other, but it’s not crucial to the overall reading experience.

It’s funny that sometimes I come up with a title for a story almost instantly. I’d say it’s the first thing that comes to mind, in that strange flood of scenes and information that comes when I get a new idea. And other times, it just won’t come. I try out different titles, but nothing sounds right. I have a story, and characters, and stuff happening, but I just don’t have a name for it. That’s when I put my thinking cap on and try not to come up with an idiotic title. That’s also when I usually come up with a really simple title, like The Writer, or Jazz, or closer.

Now, about opening lines. I wrote a blog post about some of my favorite ending lines  while ago. And, yes, I’m obsessed about opening lines, ending lines, and all kinds of short phrases that sound smart.  It only takes a couple of words for a reader to stop and ponder. To jot down your sentence.

When it comes to opening lines, sometimes I go for some really smart openings, like I tried to do in virtually every single chapter of The Writer. Other times I just go for a different effect: I want to make the reader as if he’s just interrupted something. Just throw him into the middle of a scene, and see what happens after that.

I don’t know if my obsession with opening lines is healthy or not, if it’s that important or not, if all the brilliant opening lines are brilliant only because the books themselves are brilliant.

Somehow, a bad novel with a great opening is just a bad novel. But a great novel almost always deserves a great opening line. Something that would be used to characterize the entire book. Think Lolita, as an example of that. Or Notes from the Underground.

But what about endings?

Well, there are some endings that we’ll never be able to forget. The Great Gatsby has, in my humble opinion, one of the most memorable ending lines.

I’m not talking about how to end a novel, but about the ending lines, the last paragraph. Is it just as important as the opening line? Do you get to reveal something important just then? Or end it with a question?

There are quite a lot of possibilities.

Just like I said about opening lines, even a brilliant ending line won’t chance anything about an awful story.

I once read that you should build up words within sentences, and sentences within paragraphs, and paragraphs within chapters, and chapters within the novel, in such a way that the very best comes at the very end. The center of attention is always towards the end. Or something like that.

If that’s so, then the ending line should always deliver a powerful punch. It should feel like an epiphany, even though the writer doesn’t really reveal much.

Don’t know. You tell me, if any of these elements are important, and how do you feel about titles, opening lines, and ending lines.

14 thoughts on “Titles, Opening Lines, and Endings

  1. When I write, I am all about punchy sentences, or phrases and epitaphs. I write disjointed vignettes and strive as I might, I am garbage at joining them together in any cohesive way. Up and down, up and down, my writing is like my mind; an assortment of jigsaw pieces that can be constructed to form many a thing but often incomplete and left wondering.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I find that an interesting titles reels me in. But, an English teach of mine told me not to go by the title or the back cover that tells what the story is about. She said to decide if you like a book by reading the cover, the back, the first 2 chapters, and then sentence of a book. That should help you determine if the book is worth reading. Whether that is true or not, I find myself doing this with every book I read. I have found some books with plain titles to be amazing and some to be boring. It just depends on the contents I think.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. One the best opening lines I’ve seen recently was in the book, The Milagro Beanfield War. I’m paraphrasing here but it went something like , “No one knows why Joe Mondragon did it.”

    I took one look at it, and as a writer of mysteries instantly hated John Nichols for such a brilliant, simple, but well crafted line. I was hooked and had to read the book.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I totally agree! I believe that a strong opening line is important to intrigue the reader, while a stronger ending line is essential to make your book unforgettable.

    One of my favourite first lines is from the book Anna Karenina- “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

    My favourite last line is from The Book Thief- “Last note from your narrator- I am haunted by humans.”

    Liked by 2 people

  5. It’s all apart of the story the power is always in the story it can lift you up invoke you just as much, provoke you with any luck seduce you with a tender touch but should never bore you or ignore you. So don’t ignore any part of the story less you deny it’s glory.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. A good title will definitely catch my attention.

    And it’s not so much about the opening line for me…. more about the opening pages. If you haven’t got me in the first twenty pages, then I’ll continue reading (because that’s what I do…I’m a bit of a book junkie 😛 and I still NEED to know what happens) but I probably won’t recommend said book, or be likely to ever discuss the book in the future.
    But because I read, no matter what, I’ve discovered that sometimes even good books contain bad sections, and vice versa.


  7. Slightly off subject, but regarding Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, I hope the book was better than the movie. When I went to see it, the noise of the other cinema goers snoring almost drowned out the movie soundtrack. A death at the start, a death at the end and lots of boredom in the middle was too little to keep most of them awake.


  8. Titles are, perhaps, the best advertisement of a novel. A great title may make the reader want to get their hands on the novel as soon as possible! The titles work as the biggest selling point of a novel!


  9. Opening lines are a tricky business. The best one that I’ve ever come across is ‘Mother died today, or maybe yesterday, I don’t know.” (Meursault in Albert Camus’s The Outsider). If the opening lines are great, the expectation from the book gets very high. If they’re bad, the reader, especially in this day and age, might not get past the first page, or perhaps even the first paragraph!


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.