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Wednesday, 9 December 2009

The Hook.

We all know that the first line in a book is the most important. It isn't called a hook for nothing!

The hook should consist of two things: the obvious is the bait (to keep the reader wanting more) and the second is a short summary of what the book is going to be about.

I've plucked Dean Koontz's The Good Guy off my shelf and here we have: Sometimes a mayfly skates across a pond, leaving a brief wake as thin as spider silk, and by staying low avoids those birds and bats that feed in flight.

So what does that tell you? It tells me that someone is trying to stay unobserved, maybe they are in hiding?

I wouldn't be sure until I read on, and I wanted to know - I was hooked! I read the second paragraph: At six feet three, weighing two hundred tend pounds, with big hands and bigger feet, Timothy Carrier could not maintain a profile as low as that of a skating mayfly, but he tried.

I was intrigued, and thus bought the book. And what a brilliant book it was too!

Perhaps the most famous opening lines are to Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice: "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife."

What does that conjure up? To me it's arrogance of the autocracy, and it wasn't until the drama series with Colin Firth (yum!) that I thought I'd better read the book. As a historal novel, it gave me much insight to the the era it was written in.

So, what are your thoughts on this? Is the opening the hardest part to write, or does it come easy to you?


  1. I think opening lines are more difficult than last lines.

    We want to hook the reader, and start the story somewhere amazing, maybe in media res, or maybe with some blanket statement that gets the wheels turning.

    It's maddening to think that the someone might, one day, read the first sentence of my book and then put it down and walk away. (Then, I guess isn't as painful with the realization that the book would have to be published for that scenario to play out!)

  2. lol I'm sure that will happen sometime soon!

    I tend to start in the middle of a thought or an action scene. With Eden it was an action scene - the crew had just been hit by an asteroid, with Proper Charlie it was Charlie herself doodling her thoughts during work.

    But I have to finish and write the ending before I can redraft the beginning!

  3. I worry my first lines are too enigmatic. I know that they have great meaning, but will the reader be hooked by them? It's a tough call to make, but I do love writing them.
    Karen’s Blog

  4. Generally, when my first lines come out, what comes after is still somewhere over the hill and out of sight. Thanks for the review, by the way.

  5. But always go back to it Anna. Hope I helped in the review. It was a good story.

    How's Alaska? What's the temp there? We're in a panic when it hits -1 here! :D

  6. Great post and timely: I just finished an excellent book called Hooked! How to Write Great Opening Scenes by Les Edgerton.

    See blog entry at patriciablount.wordpress.com for more info.

  7. Thanks Patty. Did you review it? I might look it up on Amazon.