Writers want to grab a reader’s attention.
No, let me clarify that. Writers NEED to grab the reader’s attention.
Most writers call this the hook. You try to hook your reader so he or she will want to read more. But I’m a southern girl from the waters of Florida. My father-in-law owned a bait and tackle shop. I worked side by side with my husband there from time to time. (Okay, I didn’t really work. I was there to see him. This was when we were dating.) Anyway, I know enough about fishing to know you can’t rely on a mere hook. If you want to reel in your reader, you need to start with some tasty bait.
This post offers five possibilities:
1. Ask a question. Try opening your novel with a question. You need not answer it right away. Use it to make your reader curious.
Would Sarah’s nightmare ever end?
The question should make you wonder a bit about Sarah and what nightmare is tormenting her. Or try this one:
How could John expect the Agent Daniels to protect his family when he couldn’t protect his own in this miserable town?
What does this opener tell you already about the story? The characters? The setting? What does it make you wonder about?
2. Create a picture for your reader. Use descriptive words to draw your reader into the story.
Ribbons of heat rose from the pavement. Ari looked up and down the
highway, praying silently for a car to come by. He wiped his brow and pressed on.
3. Use action. Drop your reader right into the action. This is the tool I used in
Breathing on Her Own
Breathing on Her Own
Molly Tipton followed her husband through the wide glass doors of the emergency room to the nurse’s station. A male nurse, on the telephone at a desk at the back of the cubicle, didn’t look up. Molly’s heart pounded. She brought her hand down hard on the bell in front of her.
“We were told our daughter Laney was in an accident and brought here.” Travis’s voice sounded steady, but Molly saw his lower lip twitch. “Laney Tipton.”
4. Try starting with a single word or phrase. I used this technique for my second novel.
What image or emotion does that single phrase conjure up for you? Women find it a powerful starter. Here’s another possibility:
The missing gold locket!
5. State a fact or statistic that leaves the reader guessing.
I read somewhere that fifty-percent of the time a remote is missing, it’s between the couch cushions. So what was Harvey’s doing in the flowerbed? And more importantly, where was Harvey?
There are, of course, many techniques to attract your reader and draw him or her into the story. What other tools have you found useful? Share your ideas in the comment section.