Thursday, May 6, 2010

Catchy openings

Openings, Hook the Reader
by Kim Smith

In my first attempt to be catchy with my writing, I attended a workshop that taught writers how to hook a reader in the first few lines of the book or story.

This sounds far easier to do than it is, I soon found out. It can be done though and I am here to offer a couple thoughts on the matter.

The best way to find out HOW to make your beginning catchy, or with a hook, is to read others and see how they did it.

I pulled down a few books from the shelf and am posting the first lines here for you.

From Harry Potter:
Mr. And Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.

From Jaws2:
A flattened, blood-red sun rose dead ahead.

From The Education of Little Tree:
Ma lasted a year after Pa was gone.

From The Practice:
The rain had begun at noon in Pocatello and followed them north for the next nine hours, a steady, pounding deluge.

I have heard from a lot of people that beginning your book or story with weather is a bad idea. Apparently these famous authors never heard that advice. However, I do suggest being a bit more active in the opener, and sometimes weather doesn’t get it for the reader.

Another way to elicit excitement in your opening is to start with dialog. For me, this will do it every time.

The all time best opening for me came from Robin Burcell in her book “Cold Case” which begins, “Officer down! Officer down!”.

And from those words through the end of the scene, you hold onto the page with a death grip and you know you will never put that book down until you find out who was the officer, and why was he or she down.

I know there must be dozens of great ways to snag the reader in the first few words, sentences, and paragraphs. Perhaps you will offer your suggestions here in the comments.
Kim Smith’s latest release, A Mirror in Time is now available at Amazon as a print book. You can check it out HERE


Marta Stephens said...

Mmmmm you'e making me think. :0

Kim Smith said...

It's tough, isn't it? How to make a reader want to read more?

A. F. Stewart said...

I tend to start my stories with an odd or strange statement. Although I have, on occasion, not been opposed to using a little weather in the openings.

s.w. vaughn said...

Your opening lines should pose a question to the reader that forces them to read on for the answer. :-)

Some of these questions might be:

Who is this guy/chick?

Why is he/she running from a cop / lawyer / lobster?

Where in the world is this weird place?

Why is [detail that doesn't fit in] mentioned / what does X have to do with anything?

And my favorite opening question:

WTF??! *G*