Friday, September 18, 2020

Writing: Hook 'Em Fast


 I'm re-reading (as is my practice) some of what I consider the best fiction in my libraries, and seeking what I can glean from these masters. One of the people who influenced me early in what I laughingly call my writing "career," and who still exerts a great deal of influence on me, is James Scott Bell. He describes himself as a "recovering lawyer," living (despite everything) in LA, and full of advice that I often take.

One of the things I've learned from what I've been taught about writing is that it's best to get the agent, editor, and/or reader engrossed in the story early. Noah Lukeman says that this should be done in the first five pages. Bell tends to get this done even more quickly. For example, here are his opening lines from his book, Try Fear:

"The cops nabbed Santa Claus at the corner of Hollywood and Gower. He was driving a silver Camaro and wearing a purple G-string and a red Santa had. And nothing else on that warm December night."

Now, if that won't get your attention, nothing will. I doubt that any of my openings are as successful at grabbing the reader as this one, but you get the picture. Look on your shelves and see how the first page or five of your favorites stack up. 

4 comments:

Priscilla Bettis said...

That Santa Claus opening is a good one! My favorite book (so far) this year is Andy Davidson's The Boatman's daughter. It starts: It was after midnight when the boatman and his daughter brought the witch out of Sabbath House and back onto the river.

Starting in the deep of night, juxtaposing a witch with the name of a place called the Sabbath House, and sticking the whole scene on a river, oh yeah, I was hooked.

Richard Mabry said...

Priscilla, I think we should grab the reader's attention as soon as possible. Your example is a good one.

Patricia Bradley said...

I like both beginnings mentioned, and I tried to remember some opening sentences and I couldn't remember a single one. Which leads me to believe I don't pay that much attention to opening sentences. lol I think I pay more attention to the first page as a whole...

Richard Mabry said...

Patricia, if you get them to turn the page, it's fine. I can't think of any of my books that have a wonderful opening sentence, but I do try to "hook" the reader pretty quickly.