Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Hook, Line, and Sinker

The hook in fiction (or non-fiction) writing is a rhetorical device that hooks the readers into wanting more. It’s most often found in the first sentence or first paragraph and it’s something catchy that grabs the attention. It can be subtle or it can knock the reader on the head with a 4x4. But it must be there.

It’s not as easy as it sounds. The problem with a hook is that it builds an immediate expectation in the reader. This expectation must be handled with care or else the hook will backfire. In other words, make sure your hooks are more than just an obvious marketing ploy.

If your story starts with something full of action, such as a helicopter crash in your main character’s yard, don’t then embark in a ponderous backstory.

If your hook mentions fish raining from the sky, don’t then follow up with descriptions of your characters.

Keep it related and keep it consistent because follow through is the ‘line and sinker’ that will essentially make the reader allow themselves to be hooked.

Grab a reader’s attention with a clever opening line, and then follow it up. This is the best way to reel in your readers.

What are some of your favourite opening lines in books? (and do they follow through?)


  1. The opening line(s) is important. Along with the opening paragraph. We tend to work on them a lot since it's also what an agent may judge you by.

    If I were at home instead of away at a conference, I'd go to my closet library and pick out a few. The only one I can remember went something like: No one dies in Happy, Texas.

  2. Someone yesterday, was asking for the best first line in books too. Now, who was it. I remember another one...

    From David Copperfield by Charles Dickens: I am born.


  3. Incredibly important stuff! And the hook should be a constant thing. I love great openings, though I can't think of one right off the top of my head.
    Oh, wait. One that stuck with me was Missy Tippen's debut Love Inspired book. The main character says something about how a rich man smells. I loved it! Wish I could remember it word for word

  4. They are all great opeing lines. I particularly like the beginning of Moby Dick. The whole first page pretty much.


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