What is it about that first sentence, that first paragraph in a book that hooks you? What makes you want to keep reading?
I’m asking the question for a few reasons. First, every single book on writing that I’ve ever read makes a point of telling you to write a good hook. Second, every writer’s conference I’ve attended always has at least one workshop on The Hook. Third, it just makes sense. Trouble is, no one really tells you how to do it.
So . . .
I’ve been going through my substantial stockpile of books looking for the secret. Here are some examples of first lines from books on my shelf, waiting to be read:
1. Imagine you agree with me on this: how we “finish” is more important than how we “begin”.
2. Outside, rain drummed against the window.
3. My name is Anna and I shouldn’t be here.
4. T.S. Eliot was wrong.
5. I’m standing at the edge of existence.
6. The day’s so hot and dry that all I can taste in my mouth is dust.
If all I had were those first lines to help me decide on a book, only #1, #3 and #5 would interest me enough to keep reading. And honestly, to have this many “good” ones in such a small selection is rare. I’ve found that just one book in ten might have a decent hook. I can’t tell you how many books I’ve started reading because the synopsis was interesting, but ended up throwing aside because the whole first chapter was dull enough to put me to sleep. The rest of the book might have been awesome, but I’ll never know if there’s nothing to hook me and keep me reading.
This is the reason I have labored over my first paragraph, first sentence, first word for months. I want those initial words to grab my reader and hold them tight so they don’t slip away before the story has even begun.
I don’t have a magic hook formula. I wish I did. All I can say is this: make sure your opening is intense enough to get your reader into the story before they finish the first page.
And don’t let them down in Chapter Two. Or Three.
Let me know how it goes.