Just like with people, it’s important for a book to make a good first impression. Good beginnings are vital, because it is your chance to draw your reader into the story. The first few pages, even the first sentence, can be what lead your reader to stay with it until the end.
Hooking your reader can be extremely hard to do, so it’s good to keep a few things in mind as you’re writing. Here are three of my tips.
1. Have a fantastic first line
This is the hook that needs to grab your reader right away. With the right first line, you’ll have them interested as soon as they get to the end of the sentence. Write Practice contributor, Kellie McGann, posted an article about writing a great first line.
A lot of the time these hooks are crisp, clean, and intriguing, but not necessarily. You can have a longer starting line, too, one full of mystery that makes me think, “What happens next?” It all depends on your style. Here are a few of my favorites.
My mother thinks I'm dead. – Legend by Marie Lue
He'd stopped trying to bring her back. – Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
Blue Sargent had forgotten how many times she’d been told that she would kill her true love. – The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
So we drank it—the two of us. – Glory O'Brien's History of the Future by A.S. King
2. Introduce your main character as soon as possible
Your protagonist is the character your reader is going to spend the most time with, so if you show them who it is and what you’re in for right away, it’s easier to set up the story. This doesn’t necessarily include prologues. I personally try to avoid those as much as possible. But your first chapter and your first scene should include your main character.
3. Hint at what’s to come
And finally, at the end of your first chapter, there should be some kind of foreshadowing about what’s going to happen in the next chapter, or even in the rest of the book. My rule of thumb is I try to have a good hook at the beginning of a chapter and at the end.That’s how you keep people reading.
What draws you into a story? What are some of your favorite book beginnings?
Pick a story you’ve wanted to start for a while now—or come up with a new idea, it’s up to you—and write five different first sentence possibilities. Share them in the comments, if you’d like, and be sure to give your fellow writers a little love, too. Have fun!