Monday, August 10, 2015

Hook 'em Fast

All these people had to come up with an opening line to the story they are writing. Be it a novel, a personal essay, an article, or a poem--all need an opening line that grabs the reader. Anyone who thinks it's easy to do that is not a realist.

Far too many writers begin with a description of a place. Nice but not usually something to hook the reader. Others try giving unimportant information in trying to set the scene. Some use dialogue immediately which has its good and bad points. Some open with background information that might have gone into a prologue or dispensed with altogether or woven into later chapters. Others open with factual bits that most readers will slide by.

When you're editing, do you pay close attention to what your opening line says or does? You should. I fear that when writers edit their first draft, they tend to slip right on by that all-important first line.

A first line should do one of these things:

1. make the reader curious

2. startle the reader

3. make the reader want to move on to the next line.

4. make the reader laugh

5. shock the reader

In summing up the five things in the list, the writer must aim to make the reader sit up and pay attention. Immediately!

How many times have you heard someone describe a book as slow to start but gets better later on? With the time constraints people deal with in today's busy lives, most aren't going to keep going until the story gets good. It's your job to hook 'em fast.

I found an article that lists 50 of the best opening lines. Take a look at the list. You'll recognize many but others will be new to you. Don't just skim them. Study them. Ask yourself why each one is listed in this group of 50.

Now, go into your files and read the first lines of your own stories, poems or essays. How do they measure up? How might you change them? How many really please you?

We're talking about only that opening line today. The sad thing is there are so many more to write after you perfect that initial sentence.

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