Sunday, December 4, 2016

How to Hook your Readers with the First Sentence

I read to escape reality. What about you? 

I love getting lost in another world and meeting new people. I can’t help but fall in love with the main love interests in the books I read (Four, is my favorite). I often find myself thinking about these characters as if they're real people I know. I wonder what they could be up to now… weeks after I’ve read the story. 

Don’t get me wrong, not all books leave this lasting impression on me. But oh my when one does… I can’t even begin to explain the emotions. How can anyone hate reading? 

I actually have the answer to that question. They haven’t found their book. I honestly believe there's a book for everyone. And I truly believe some books were not made for certain people. I’ve even told people who asked to read one of my books, “Oh, it’s not right for you.” – Disclaimer: I’ve only said this to people I know well. And I still admonish them to purchase it for someone else they know who loves to read. 

One of the methods I employ to see if I’ll like a book is, reading the first paragraph. Yes. That’s right. I read the first paragraph. If there’s something good in the first few sentences, I’ll continue on. If not, I put the book down. The only time I make an exception is when I already love the author’s other works. 

I know that what I’m suggesting is a tall order. But grabbing the reader’s attention on page one, paragraph one is possible. What am I looking for in those first couple of sentence? What is it about that first word, sentence, paragraph, that makes you feel you can’t put the story down?  While there is no scientific method for hooking a reader, there are some tricks you can employ to aid in your readers being unable to put your book down. 

One specific tool you can use: Mystery.

I want to feel like something is going on and I need to find out what. I want to feel like I’m going to miss out on something big if I don’t keep reading. I want that first page to produce a slew of questions that forces me to keep reading. 

Mystery. That’s it in a nutshell. Instinctively, we're all nosy. We all want to know the why, the how, the when, and the where… Reading a great opening hook should make you salivate for the rest of the story, not feel tired, and put the book down. 

Here are some of my favorite opening lines from YA books (I write YA so I always refer to YA): 

If I Stay by Gayle Forman – “Everyone thinks it was because of the snow.” --- What snow? What is ‘it’? An accident? Did someone get hurt? Who got hurt? Did they die? 

Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi – “I’ve been locked up for 264 days.” – Who locked you up? Why have you been locked up so long? Where are you locked up? Where are your parents? What did you do? 

Divergent by Veronica Roth – “There is one mirror in my house.” – Why is there one mirror in your house? Why is this something that is important? Where is this mirror? Where are the other mirrors? Is it bad for you took look in the mirror? Why would it be bad to do that? 

Witch and Wizard The Gift by James Patterson – “Listen to me.” – Are you in danger? Why should I listen to you? What’s about to happen? Is something bad about to happen? 

Finding Me by Dawn Brazil  - “One of the weirdest days of my existence began with a kiss.” – Why is the day so weird? Why did the day start with a kiss? Was the kiss weird? Who did you kiss? Why did you use the word, existence? 

Mass Hysteria (unpublished) by Dawn Brazil – “I time my laugh so it sounds just right rolling from my lips.” Are you forcing a laugh? Why are you forcing a laugh? Do you not feel comfortable where you’re at? Are you trying to impress someone? Are you not comfortable in your own skin? Do you often pretend? 

Do you see the questions produced from just one sentence from every book? Just think if I had used the first paragraphs. If you can do this with your opening line then I think you're on to something. Maybe you have questions raised but are they the right questions. Evaluate your opening line and see if it stands up to the test before you give it to readers. 

Read a book. Have a great day and smile. 

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