Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Hooking Your Reader

Hooking your reader…in the first sentence!

Okay ladies and gents what is the most important thing (well almost) to your writing? That would be hooking your reader with the first sentence. We’re in an extremely competitive field where the editor is going to sit down with a good cup of coffee and take the time to read your work.

Remember that she (or he) has thousands of other manuscripts to feather through, so what is going to make YOUR work stand out? The very first sentences that she glances at. What is going to KEEP her reading? Well crafted paragraphs, that’s what. Your work must be compelling enough for her to sit through the entire cup of coffee, go and get another cup, while STILL reading your work.

Even if the middle of the story dances to a perfect tune, and your ending has the finality of a swirl and dip, it is the beginning that is going to get the editor to ask you to dance in the first place.

Let’s try opening with action, not necessarily one tracked dialogue of two people arguing. Set a scene with some form of action taking place. Example: The building has been sitting there on that hill for centuries and who knows what ghosts lurk in the hallowed walls. Jerry wants to go in and play around but I’ve heard the stories. I’ve seen things.

Right there SOMEONE wants to know what you’ve seen and heard. They want to know WHY has it been standing there. But we’ll give that to them later after the kids go exploring in the big convent that remains barren for some reason.

Dialogue in the opening scene is not such a good idea either. The reader doesn’t know these people or has had a chance to get to know them. They are strangers invading their homes at this point. You don’t want a lot of imagery and description of a dark and lonely haunted house. Build up the ACTION first, then lead your reader through the why’s and what have you’s until they are so interested they continue turning the page.

Give the reader what he or she wants. When they read the dust jacket they will either buy the book or put it down. Are you going to let them walk away because you bored them stiff? NO! You are going to give them a riveting beginning that makes them thirsty for more. They’ve read the first few paragraphs and now they’re drooling at the mouth wanting more, more and more!


Don’t get lazy midway through the book either. If it bores you and you feel it just isn’t juicy enough, re-write it until you yourself are frothing at the mouth, patting yourself on the back and ready to give yourself a big ol’ high five. You can do it, because you’ve done exemplary work on the first few pages, now give the readers something to talk about. Give the editors something to brag about, "Yes I was the one who discovered…" Your name could and WILL be there!

Write on people!


June said...

Hi Joni,

Action is the first scene is a good way (and not the only way) to grab hold of the reader.

If you're writing action/adventure, crime, mystery, or another genre along these lines, I bet you'll find that most of these begin with action, as might many other types of stories.

Take care,

joni said...

It is so true. Every novel you open up hooks you with that one action scene. Even if the middle gets boring, the author keeps hooking with other chapters! :-)

All caught up? :-)

Thanks for visiting!