Hook the Reader!
When it comes to writing your book the opening sentence is the most important thing you will write. That sentence needs to hook the reader and reel them in. It needs to make them WANT to continue reading to find out what is happening or will happen.
That opening sentence should set the reader to wondering and have them continue reading to learn the answers.
Finding the opening sentence can be a royal pain in the rear. With it, you introduce the main character, set the tone of the story, and the setting. The sentence can be short or long, but don’t overdo it.
Hook the Reader Part 1
Here’s an exercise for you to try.
Write the first sentence of a story. Something that will grab the reader and make them want to continue reading.
Here is mine:
Ronne Donovan crept down the dim alley when a figure popped up from behind a dumpster.
Once you have an opening sentence you are happy with, continue writing.
Hook the Reader Part 2
Now, take your opening sentence and expand it by two or three more sentences. No To be verbs or adverbs unless it’s part of a dialogue.
To Be Verbs: am, are, is, was, were, be, been, become, became
Adverbs — An adverb can be added to a verb to modify its meaning. Usually, an adverb tells you when, where, how, in what manner, or to what extent an action is performed.
Many adverbs end in ‘ly’ — particularly those that are used to express how an action is performed.
Although many adverbs end with ‘ly’, lots do not, e.g., fast, never, well, very, most, least, more, less, now, far, and there.
Sometimes an adverb is needed, but try to limit their use. Don’t overwrite and drown the reader in adverbs. They will lose interest.
Ronne Donovan crept down the dim alley when a figure popped up from behind a dumpster. She paused and then shook her head. “Damn you, Brad! Why insist on meeting here instead of a place that doesn’t stink of cat piss?”
“Because I don’t want us to be seen together. Too many eyes on the members of the Order.” He walked over, hands in pockets. “I have the information you wanted.”
“And I have the amount we agreed on.” She reached a hand into her jacket pocket, fingers brushing the grip of the handgun, and then grasping an envelope.
To go with the great opening sentence you should have a great opening paragraph. The Opening paragraph should contain the following:
Your main character.
An incident that informs the reader what’s at stake for the main character
Hint at what the main character’s need or ultimate goal is.
Things you should avoid in the opening paragraph:
Do not introduce another character first, no matter how much you may like him or her or it. The story is about the main character so start with them.
Avoid giving long descriptions about the main character or their current location.
Here’s an example of a bad opening. This is from the first draft I wrote in 2013.
Rain slashed against the window with thunder in the background. Ravyn opened her dark gray eyes and found herself staring into a pair of amber eyes. Seeing his human was finally awake, Ebony started meowing. Grimacing, Ravyn gently pushed him away.
“Aw hell, Eb, use a breath mint!” She muttered as she sat up and rubbed her eyes. As usual, she wore sweat pants and a tank top to sleep in. At five feet eight inches tall, slender as a rail nearly as flat as the proverbial board, with very short black hair; Ravyn Wyng would never be considered beautiful, but attractive in a rough way. In her right earlobe was a silver dagger earring, a gift from her wife on their first anniversary. She has tattoos on her shoulders: a raven perched on a skull on the right and a pair of spread raven wings on the left. Her most startling feature was the scar on the left side of her face that ran from the corner of her eye down to her chin. Her companion, Jennifer Wells, said it gave her character. Ravyn thought it made her look like a maniac. At 26 years old, she had been through a lot in her life and the deep pain and uncertainty in her eyes reflect this.
Here’s my latest opening. I’m still not satisfied with it, but that’s why we rewrite and revise.
Many lost civilizations did exist, and the proof is out there, somewhere in the world. With archaeological finds occurring every year, who can say these civilizations will remain legends much longer? Someone, somewhere, will stumble across the proof. An old map, a stone tablet carved with unknown runes. Of course, we know old-school scholars will brush these finds aside, saying ‘it’s impossible.’ The scholars will insist these are nothing more than old stories used to instruct tribal people. I believe otherwise, and so do many others.
Munching on pizza, Ravyn Wyng read what she’d written for the article on Lost Civilizations. “Not bad, not bad at all.” Satisfied, she emailed the article to the editor at Legendary Places. “Finished.” She stood and stretched. Her left shoulder ached, throbbing in time with her heart.
Yes, you will agonize over the opening of your story, but you want the reader to ask what is going to happen and continue reading.
May the words ever flow!