“And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don't believe in magic will never find it."

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Hook Readers on the First Sentence

How do you hook the readers?

Especially on the opening of your novel? The first sentence....

So this has always been a challenge for me. I have wonderful prologues, I do, but the first sentence I feel like is just...mediocre. I stop and realize if that would hook me in on the first paragraph. I'm going to be honest right now: no. 

I'm still early in the process of my first novel, so I need your advice readers: how do you hook them in? 
I know you keep it simple, you introduce characters, have a punch-line, shock them, etc. but the problem is just that...I am not sure how to go about it. 

What approach do you take? Or do you not worry about it as much? 
 It's funny because I've done so many chapters already, but the first page of chapter one...well I dislike it. I have a feeling I'll be revising it...a lot. But least I can admit that to myself right?
I want to catch attention, I just don't know how to do it. So please, do share! It would really help me a lot. Any advice: 
How can I make these words come to LIFE!

What would "hook" you in as a reader? 

I have looked at a lot of different books over the last few days, making notes about the first line, but I don't want to be like everyone else; I have my own voice. But I do think it's critical to grab the attention of others. Agents need that hook; they have so many writers that want them so if they aren't hooked, they'll toss you aside. That's heartbreaking. 

Anyway, I'm actually reading Stephen King On Writing, finally, and I must say, I really like it. He is a twisted, but brilliant man! My boyfriend loves his books. He just read The Shining; that movie freaked me out, but maybe it's time I read it. 

WriteOnCon is still going well; maybe I thought of this post because in a live forum right now, they're critiquing sentence structure. So it helps me brainstorm if you will. 

Thanks Friends!
Happy Wednesday :)


  1. This is... hard. At least for me. I think if someone reads my first chapter they'd be hooked, but is that good enough? I know a lot of agents and readers want to be hooked by the first few paragraphs. So for me, I think, it's finding the correct place to start the story and making sure there's tension and conflict from the very first paragraphs. So maybe not rewriting your first chapter, but restructuring? I think that is inevitable for me.

    1. Restructuring is a great idea; that's what I've been doing a lot today. I decided I really didn't want to change it completely. So messing around with it a bit. Thank you!

  2. I recently won a "Best First Line" contest. There were 6 wins. Two honorable mentions, 1st and 2nd runner up, and 1st place. I entered 4 first lines. I won 3 places - Honorable mention, 2nd runner up and 1st place. I was shocked and thrilled!
    Here are the sentences that placed:

    "My grave knocked on my door last night, but I refused to answer."

    "Alura stood with Molly, Natalie and Mary in the dwindling line of captives."

    "A man's hand reached out of the smoky plated mirror and caressed River on the cheek."

    I think there is a lot at stake with a first line and in order to grab the reader's attention, it's important your first line is creative, interesting, different and written in active voice. After that, I'm not for sure. My prize for winning the contest was a one page critique and the published author let me know there was a lot i needed "fixed" after the first sentence.
    ]I hope you enjoyed WriteOnCon. I did!

    1. Oh those sentences are wonderful! All of them make me want to read on. I see what you mean; thank you.

  3. I would agree with restructuring the chapter if you are basically happy with it. I have done this recently with mine and found that by jiggling a few sentences and paragraphs around it felt much stronger.

    Good luck, keep going, I'm sure you'll nail it soon.

    1. Oh that's great, I need to do the same.

      And thank you, I appreciate it.

  4. I don't have any advice, sorry, but I intend to go back to my first line at the very, very end of my writing process. That way, I will have a good feel for the tone of the book. Good luck finding the right sentence :)

    1. That's a great way of finding the right sentence! Thank you.

  5. An opening line should really grab, and so I try to make mine short and sharp, usually a stand alone sentence. I admit I do love prologues, but apparently the industry hates them!

    1. Hey!

      I like it: short & sharp! SS! I know that about prologues, but for my story, I really need it in there. It's important. I've been debating though, if I just wanted to make that the first Chapter. But I'm not sure if it'll flow as nicely.



  6. Hi Jessica! SOrry I'm just now getting over for a visit, but it's been a busy month. I love the look of your blog. Tres chic!
    First lines are always tricky. I try not to worry about them too much til after my first draft is done. Then I probably change them a dozen times before I'm satisfied. I think they're so important. Every once in awhile, one will just come to me and it's exciting. :)

    1. Great advice, thank you so much! Appreciate it :)

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