Let me tell you a story…

glasses-booksCommonly known in writing circles as a ‘hook,’ a lot has been said over the years about the opening sentence, or two, of a tale. It’s common sense to try and grab a reader asap, be it with something dramatic, curious, unusual or quirky. Not all writers do, of course. I’ve read some bland opening sentences over the years and yet – reading deeper – some books have ‘delivered’ more than promised. It is, nevertheless, a good idea to give careful thought to those first words which confront you when you open the cover. As I always have piles of read and unread books everywhere…I picked five at random and checked them out.

The first one: Kate Granville’s The Lieutenant began: ‘Daniel Rooke was quiet, moody, a man of few words.’ Pretty Girl in Crimson Rose (8) by Sandy Balfour, simply said: ‘Let me take you back to December, 1983.’ Both openings were an invitation: to know more about the ‘quiet, moody, man’ in the first instance, and a direct request to return to December, 1983 in the second. So, both subtle hooks… The third book, called The Seed Collectors by Scarlet Thomas starts: ‘Imagine a tree that can walk. Yes, actually walk. Think it’s impossible? You’re wrong.’ The fourth book titled Amsterdam, written by Ian McEwan, begins: ‘Two former lovers of Molly Lane stood waiting outside the crematorium chapel with their backs to the February chill.’ Both openings intrigue. A tree that can walk? And who was Molly Lane? None of the authors are amateurs. They knew what they were writing.

The fifth and final book, a favourite by Carlos Ruiz Zafon The Shadow of the Wind states: ‘I still remember the day my father took me to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books for the first time.’ Another interesting, mind-winding opening.

Fast-forwarding to Writers’ Ink member, Nigel Grundey’s, latest novel, The Vienna Connection, let’s see what his hook is…Take his first paragraph; ‘Can we trust the messenger?’ asked Harry Ward slowly as the tall Warrant Officer scratched at a scar on his cheek, then returned the hand-written note to his commanding officer. ‘What it says is believable, because the Nazis broadcast their plans for Rome and Paris before liberation. But why wait until now to reveal the details?’ Again, intriguing.

Some more examples of great openings here www.dailywritingtips.com

It’s great fun this writing lark, plotting and planning…


© Joy Lennick 2018



4 thoughts on “Let me tell you a story…

  1. Liesbet @ Roaming About 20/04/2018 / 10:35 pm

    Opening pages are intriguing, aren’t they? I actually never found this little fact important as a reader, since I would give each book a fair chance to “grow” on me. Now that I’m writing my own first book, I think the opening pages are one of the most important parts. Since I’m an amateur writer, it is important to hook the reader. If you don’t mind, Joy, you can let me know what you think about my opening chapter, which is a prologue… http://www.roamingabout.com/iwsg-writing-update-march-2018-chapter-by-chapter/

  2. Shallow Reflections 09/05/2018 / 12:15 pm

    Now I’m going to go through all the books on my nightstand to read the first line, Joy. I try to write good first lines for my blog posts, too, since I know that I need to interest someone enough to continue. Great examples of opening lines of books that make you want to read more! -Molly

  3. fruit 15/09/2018 / 2:13 am

    Or posѕibly he likes ƅowling.? Lee cߋntinuеd. ?I heard someone say that once you hеar thunder, that signifies that God is bowling in heaven. I guess hes actuаlly good at it.

  4. D. Wallace Peach 02/03/2019 / 4:54 pm

    Great examples, Joy. Not flashy at all, but all intriguing. I didn’t pay much attention to opening lines/paragraphs/pages when I started writing. That came much later. Now it’s become almost a writing challenge, a puzzle to be solved, and I enjoy trying to craft a good start. Someday, when time permits, my plan is to go back and revisit all the openings of my older books. It will be fun, I think. 🙂

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