Today's readers have so many books to choose from. With so much selection, readers can be choosy and they'll often give up on a story if the beginning doesn’t grab them quick enough.
Hooking the Reader
Think of the opening of your novel as an opportunity to lead your reader into the rest of the paragraph and onto the next page. They don’t have to fall in love with the book on the first sentence - they just have to like it enough to want to read more... and more... and more.
The start of a novel should raise questions. You want your reader to wonder who the characters are and why they are doing the things they're doing. Don't leave them wondering for long though. A common misconception of writers is that hooking the reader means beginning with drama, an explosion of sorts. However, the trouble with starting a story like this is that the reader isn't yet invested in the story or characters. There's nothing at stake yet for the reader.
"One thing to keep in mind about getting and keeping your reader’s attention is that it’s not necessary to make your reader want to read the entire book based on the first sentence. All that is necessary is drawing the reader’s attention on to the next sentence and the rest of the paragraph. Think about it. How often have you stayed up far too late with a book so that you could read just one more chapter? In a well-constructed novel, that one more chapter can turn into just one more, and one more and one more until you are sleep deprived. You are carried deeper into the novel a little bit at a time. First lines are just the beginning of this process."
13 First Sentences (or paragraphs) from my books
- "Ryan’s phone rang from somewhere on the floor where their clothes had ended up on their way to the bed the night before." (Coming Home, 2012)
- "Rachel sat at the table, her fingers hugging the hot mug of coffee as she surveyed her children. Her three sons were grown now. They were magnificent men. She shook the tears off as she thought of their dad." (Never Coming Home, 2014)
- "“Open the damn door.” Madden’s deep voice vibrated through the thin door of the Sinster sisters’ home." (Lustful Cravings, 2012)
- "Eloise should be happy. Her sister had found her mate. But dammit, all she could focus on was how badly she wished it were her." (Eternal Envy, 2012)
- "Seamus’ head shot up when Madden assigned him to an extraction team." (Holiday Gem, 2012)
- "“No. It is so not happening. He promised me time.” Paige shook her head at her sisters." (Vanished Pride, 2013)
- "Gage walked the halls of the empty lab building for the fiftieth time that night. Still not a sound. He was pissed Madden gave him this assignment. He was a damn sharpshooter, a sniper, the best shot the TEU had, and this was the assignment he received. Gage had to play night watchmen for a research lab because the regular night guard heard a few bumps in the night. Wasn’t there anyone else? This was exactly what sucked about being the baby brother." (Frozen Fury, 2013)
- "Idiots. All of them. Complete idiots." (Shadowed Spirit, 2013)
- "Grace chose her words carefully so as not to give away her secret." (Graceful Acceptance, 2014)
- "Late for work, I took the corner to the coffee shop at a quick pace, too focused on my phone call with my sister to notice the man walking out of the shop before I ran into him." (Hold My Hand, 2013)
- "When I first saw her, she ensnared me. She'd tell a different story, I'm sure." (Touch My Heart, 2014)
- "I heard the voices through the fog that seemed to surround me. One of those voices was William. He was here. He’d found me." (Heal My Soul, 2015)
- "I hesitantly step off the ferry and gaze around, careful to keep my eyes averted from those around me. I just want to blend in." (Ivy Intertwined, 2015)
What About You?
Share one of your first sentences in the comments. Tell us what techniques you've used to write great opening sentences or paragraphs?