Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself, wrote Virginia Wolf. Leo Tolstoy observed that Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. Margaret Atwood made it clear that Time is not a line but a dimension, like the dimensions of space while Charles Dickens wondered Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show. Brilliant.
So, what do these lines have in common except that we’re quoting (and remembering) them decades after they were written? They were (and still are) extraordinary novel openers we cannot get over. And that’s precisely what you want to accomplish, too.
But, how does a writer in the 21st century go about writing catchy openers and pieces that stick when, these days, virtually every content is chewed, digested, and spat out quicker than it was written?
In a climate that encourages everyone to speak their minds and share their content, you need to make sure your stuff is powerful enough to become worth remembering.
Apart from mastering these Must-Read Books That Will Make You a Better Writer, here’s how to hook readers:
Begin at a Pivotal Moment
In a novel – intrigue is everything. The reader is more likely to want to continue to read if you start your piece with a critical moment in the story.
“I became what I am today at the age of twelve, on a frigid overcast day in the winter of 1975.” Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner
Make Your Readers Wonder
There’s something mind-bending about a plot you can’t understand straight away. When you put a question in your readers’ minds, you’ve done the most important thing – got their attention and made them want to read more. What’s going to happen? What do those first lines mean? You’ll keep them reading the more you make them wonder.
“Those old cows knew trouble was coming before we did.” – Jeannette Walls, Half Broke Horses: A True-Life Novel
Start in Medias Res
When you begin with something happening, you immediately catch the reader’s attention and make them wonder what next is going to happen, who the characters are, what’s the background, etc. and you successfully build suspense without even getting to the plot.
“You better not never tell nobody but God.” Alice Walker, The Color Purple
Introduce an Intriguing Character
The reader will, no doubt, be much more interested in a story if there’s a character they find fascinating. Draw your readers into a story’s narrative by starting it with a captivating plotline and an out of the ordinary character.
“I was born twice: first as a baby girl on a remarkably smogless Detroit day in January of 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of 1974.” Jeffrey Eugenides, Middlesex
Begin with a Compelling Narrative Voice
Make your first words effective by opening the story with the voice of a narrator. The moment your readers identify with the narrator, that’s when you get their undivided attention. It’s best to start with the first person:
“I am ninety. Or ninety-three. One or the other.” Sara Gruen, Water for Elephants
Great opening lines are fantastic tools to pull the writers in; however, don’t put all of your eggs in one basket. If your few first lines are spectacular and most of your content weak, they won’t continue reading. Keep your content strong at all times. Visit Progressive Rising Phoenix to learn how.