Hi there, everyone. Paul here today. I am going to piggyback on Sher’s great post about how to lose readers at the start of your book. If you missed that wonderfully informative post, click here. I am not claiming to present anything terribly original here. In fact, most of what I am going to write came from a wonderful book I posted about at the beginning of the month. The book is called Many Genres, One Craft: Lessons in Writing Popular Fiction. The book was recommended to me by my good friend and contributor to Many Genres, Heidi Ruby Miller. If you missed my post you can read it here. This is a book I recommend for all writers no matter your experience or skill level.
To further Sher’s concept of losing readers at the start of your book, I’m going to highlight a few ideas that will help you grab your readers attention and make them want to keep reading your book. That is, after all, the ultimate goal, correct? According to Many Genres there are three main opening lines that are used to grab and hold your readers attention. The first is assault. With this technique you assault the reader with action and force. When you assault the reader you really want to sock them in the gut. It can involve details and action, or it can be subtle and impactful. An example might be having your protagonist gathering all his/her personal belongings while watching the seconds on the clock tick by. He/she would then be forced to take only the necessities before racing out the front door. Why is he/she leaving in such a rush? What happened? You get the point. The reader will want to keep reading to learn the answers.
Another type of opening line is intrigue. By opening with intrigue you will grab the readers attention and have them asking, what happens next? There are many examples of this. Perhaps the protagonist picks up the morning paper to read a headline announcing a crime. The protagonist then struggles to recall last nights events between, say, 7-10. This time frame seems to have been erased from his/her memory. The reader will be asking themselves if the headline and unaccounted for time are related. They will keep reading to find out.
The third type of opening line is beguile. This combines both assault and intrigue with a spin. In this type of opening line you would perhaps provide assault like actions, while opening the door to many questions. By beguiling the reader, you will force them to keep reading. This is, most assuredly, the most difficult type of opening line.
I hope this information will help you write that opening line that hooks and draws in your readers. The idea is to perk their interest and keep them reading. You only have a few pages to do this, so I suggest incorporating one of these three opening line styles while avoiding the fails that Sher laid out in her post. If you want specific examples of any or all of these opening lines please refer to Many Genres, One Craft: Lessons in Writing Popular Fiction. It is an excellent resource. That’s all for now. Until next time, keep writing and reading, and be careful what you wish for…
Paul R. Hewlett