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Hook, Line, and Sinker: How to Catch Readers with that First Line

It’s hard to describe the magic that creates those first lines that draw us in to a story. So I decided I would pick through my bookshelf to see how my favorite authors crafted theirs. And I have to admit, I had to stop myself from reading on several times. Short or long they spoke with a true voice that told of the mysteries contained within. In my attempts to decipher and learn from these great lines, I categorized them.  The list below is only a start in the sea of infinite stories.

*The Question: These lines give a question that the reader will hopefully want answered. It can be as simple as two words.

          “Who’s there?” Hamlet by William Shakespeare

 *Descriptive: This can set the tone for the whole book. They work the best when the author’s voice shines through.  George Orwell tells us so much with his first sentence. And John Steinbeck got me to purchase this book recently with his descriptive hook.

           “It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.” 1984 by George Orwell

 “Cannery Row in Monterey in California is a poem, a stink, a grating noise, a quality of light, a tone, a habit, a nostalgia, a dream.” Cannery Row by John Steinbeck

 *Declarative: So many of these lines leave me asking a question that demands to be answered. And for those familiar with David Sedaris, you can sense his voice from the first sentence. This one kept me reading for a bit.

“My friend Patsy was telling me a story.” When You are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris.

*Shocker: These usually are jarring enough to spark a curiosity in the reader that demands to be satisfied.  Even our own Wicked Dwarf, Jami Gray, has used this one.

 “Locked in darkness that surrounded me like a coffin, I had nothing to distract me from my memories.” Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder

 “With a quick twist of her wrist, Raine slipped the blade between Quinn’s ribs.” Shadows Edge  by Jamie Gray

 Whether it is a question or a descriptive line, the main point of that first sentence is to draw the reader to the second one and the third. The goal is to pull the reader in to your wondrous world, and have them stay to play awhile.  Here is a website of 100 great first lines to help inspire you along your way.

What’s you favorite?

Leave a comment

2 Comments

  1. One of my favorite’s is from Jennifer Estep’s SPIDER’S BITE: “My name is Gin. I kill people.”
    Shocker (O_0) I know!

    Reply
  2. Debbie Lee

     /  August 11, 2014

    So many to chose from, so I went to one of my favorite books, The Notebook. “Who am I? And how, I wonder, will this story end?

    Reply

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