How to Hook a Reader from the First Sentence.

We all know first impressions count, from the title to the very first sentence. So if you lose the reader at this point, chances are they won’t be coming back again. Whoever said ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ probably was not in the writing industry. The first line needs to be brilliant, presenting something curious, shocking or entertaining, and it must be an example of your best writing.
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Fear not, writing buddies; you’re not alone in editing that all important line for the trillionth time. It’s something most of us struggle with at some point.

Here are some examples of excellent first lines, they hook your attention long enough for you to think, ‘oh, what’s happening here?’ Lets’ take a look, perhaps you’ll recognise a few.

“It took seven years to get the letter right.”

“Blue Sargent had forgotten how many times she’d been told that she would kill her true love.”

“The screw through Cinder’s ankle had rusted, the engraved cross marks worn to a mangled circle.”

“I remember lying in the snow, a small red spot of warm going cold, surrounded by wolves.”

“I hate having to dress like a man.”

“After a year of slavery in the Salt Mines of Endovier, Celaena Sardothien was accustomed to being escorted everywhere in shackles and at sword-point.”

Book Petals Love Writing Novel Author Lorraine Ambers

So what are the magic ingredients for crafting a great line?

They encourage a sense of curiosity or shock: Why does she have to dress like a man? Why does she have a rusted screw in her ankle? What was so important that it took seven years to write?

They present the reader with conflict: Will she escape slavery? Why does she have to kill her first love and will she get away with it? Will the wolves kill her?

By combining curiosity and conflict you drop the reader straight into the action, where things are about to start happening, getting to the heart of the story as soon as possible.

While it’s tempting to lure the reader in with beautiful descriptions and lengthy prose, you run the risk of losing the reader’s interest before they’ve had a chance to meet your character.

The same might be said for opening with dialogue; the reader hasn’t had a chance to become orientated with the story, let alone become invested in your character. Why should they care what they’re talking about?

Alternatively, opening with inner dialogue gives a deeper perspective, potentially allowing the reader to become accustomed to your MC through their thoughts and actions.

Don’t forget to check out your favourite novel and see if any of their first lines grab your attention.

Author Lorraine Ambers - fantasy romance writer

Thanks for stopping by.

Until next time, Much Love.

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© Author Lorraine Ambers and, 2019.


49 thoughts on “How to Hook a Reader from the First Sentence.

  1. THIS 1000%! 😀 Action and conflict are all great ways of hooking the reader’s interest right off the bat. Changing my story opening from ‘Man gets off boat, walks through unfamiliar city, reacts to things’ to ‘Man getting beaten up, won’t stay down,’ was such a useful angle to try out – it makes the reader curious to read on, presents an underdog character (hopefully!) who’s down but not out, and dialogue openings are always great in immersing the reader in a living, breathing world.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love The Raven Cycle and I love the first line of The Raven Boys! I think you’re definitely right about curiosity and conflict being the key factors. I find a lot of first lines fall flat because they try to paint a picture, and that’s just not the kind of opening that personally draws me in. Great post! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Excellent post Lorraine! I am OBSESSED with opening lines, because great ones can be so effective at hooking readers into the story. One of my semi-recent favourites is from The Steel Remains by Richard Morgan: “When a man you know to be of sound mind tells you his recently deceased mother has just tried to climb in his bedroom window and eat him, you only have two basic options…” 😂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Some great advice, Lorraine, but I’d have to disagree a little with you about stories that open with dialogue, but only because I write a lot of stories that have nothing but ‘dialogue’ in them. It’s something I enjoy doing. I think dialogue can also be a great opening and get a reader hooked, usually, when a character asks a question such as “Where has all this blood come from?”

    Something else that can also get me hooked (even before reading the first line) is the title of a chapter. I love giving chapters titles rather than just numbering them, but I guess there are pros and cons for both?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You make excellent points. Opening with dialogue in short stories is a great way to start, therefore if the dialogue adds curiosity or conflict then you’re off to a winning start.
      I’m now going in the hunt to find a novel that starts with dialogue.
      Great tip about naming chapters. Thanks for commenting.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. As a reader I am hooked if the story line can be told in the opening sentence. This is my favorite from Stephen King’s The Gunslinger:

    The man in Black fled across the Desert, and the Gunslinger followed.

    Oddly enough the book was not my favorite but the opening sentence was good enough for me to buy it.

    It needs to be short and drive curiosity. The ones you mentioned are perfect. They cause the reader to pause and wonder what happens next. This is hard for a writer to pull off but a necessity if we want our work to sell.

    Liked by 1 person

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