the hook

#JustWrite Fostering CreativityEvery month, I’ll be offering a free exercise for fostering your creativity.  These are a sampling of the exercises that I suggest to my Fostering Creativity clients. My clients’ exercises are tailored to their specific needs and challenges, but these free exercises will give you a peek at how my program works. Each month, I’ll select one winner. The winning entry will be highlighted on my blog, you will receive the #JustWrite Fostering Creativity Award to display on your blog or web site, your entry will be showcased at the Winner’s Circle, and you’ll receive a mystery prize as well.

For this month’s #JustWrite exercise, we’ll play with opening lines and hooks.  Let’s start at the very beginning. That’s a very good place to start, right?

Let’s Not and Say We Did

Actually, it’s not. Who wants to read a book that starts at the very beginning? I don’t. J.D. Salinger didn’t.

If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.

J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye

The Hook

Red Bait Hook

In American Sign Language, the sign for addicted is suggestive of a fish being hooked. This is what you want to do with your first line. Get your reader addicted. Make it impossible for her not to read the next line, the next page, or the next chapter.

How do you do this? If you study the 25 Best Opening Lines in Western Literature,  100 Best First Lines of Novels, or Wikiquote’s list of memorable opening lines, you’ll notice a few recurring themes.

Voice:  Start with a strong voice. Let your readers know who their story is about by having the character speak directly to them.

  • “Call me Ishmael.” (Herman Melville, Moby-Dick)
  • “You better not never tell nobody but God.” (Alice Walker, The Color Purple)
  • “You don’t know about me without you have read a book called ‘The Adventures of Tom Sawyer,’ but that ain’t no matter.” (Mark Twain, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn)

Action: Start in the middle of the action. Put your characters in hot water right from word one. Or for a twist on this, start after the action.

  • “The building was on fire, and it wasn’t my fault.” (Jim Butcher, Blood Rites)
  • “The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.” (Stephen King, The Gunslinger)
  • “Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.” (Gabriel Garcia Marquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude)

Surprise: Startle your readers. You can use juxtaposition, a shocking image, or a surprising twist right to wake your readers up.

  • “It was a pleasure to burn.” (Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451)
  • “I am an invisible man.” (Ralph Ellison, The Invisible Man)
  • “It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.” (George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four)

#JustWrite Challenge: Write an addicting first line

This month’s challenge is to write a first line that will make your readers want more.  Use strong voice, action, surprise, or any other method to hook your reader.

Click here to submit your entry to the challenge. (You many need to login or register first.) The title of your post should be “The Hook” and your entry should be in the body of the post. Enter as many times as you’d like. The challenge will remain open until the first of next month, when I select the winning entry.

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