Thursday, December 15, 2011

HOW TO WRITE A BEGINNING HOOK

by Molly Noble Bull  




 The first sentence of a novel should grab the reader’s attention instantly. We call this a beginning hook. The beginning hook should introduce a problem or reveal something about the main character. Can you spell provocative?
Think of this one sentence as a headline, book title, or chapter title. The one sentence can ask a question, and the shorter the better.
.   If you absolutely can't come up with a headline, write the first line of a dialogue. But that first line of dialogue MUST be interesting, causing the reader to want to read more in order to find out what is going on and what will happen next.
Below are some examples. 

Headline 
She'd seen him again.
(This opening came from The Rogue’s Daughter—one of my published novels.) 
Was he dead? 
Where was Sally? 
Why did he come here after all these years? 
What does he think he was doing?
A bang broke the quiet of the small library.  
Was someone following her? 
NOTE: YOU CAN NAME A CHARACTER IN A BEGINNING DIALOGUE. BUT DON'T NAME YOUR MAIN CHARACTER IN A HEADLINE. NAME HIM OR HER IN SENTENCE TWO

Dialogue

"I'm not marrying him, Father." Melissa North turned toward the door. "If you try to force me to, I'll run away."       
"He's the murderer, and he knows I know." Jane Scopes pulled her suitcase from the top shelf and carried it to the bed. "I'm leaving." 
"I'm taking the next stagecoach out of Tombstone—whether you like it or not."

I would like to propose a challenge. Write a beginning hook of only one sentence for either a prologue or a chapter one and post it at the end of this article as a comment. I will comment on your hooks.

3 comments:

Jeff Reynolds/Becky Reynolds said...

One interesting thing, though. I've heard someone consider the best opening line of any novel breaks one of the rules you mentioned, which is not mentioning the name of the main character. That opening line I'm referring to is "My name is Ishmael" from Moby Dick.

But then, there's the view that many great writers like Meville or Agatha Christie couldn't get published today. And of course, if they were writing today in the style they wrote in the past, that may not be true, though my hunch is that they would be as much a part of our times as they were a part of their times.

Jeff Reynolds

Molly Noble Bull said...

Dear Jeff and Becky,
Thanks for writing such interesting comments. I love to read the opinions of others.
But my article was really written more for modern writers. The information I used in my article came from the late Dwight Swain author of Technigues of a Selling writer. I have found that to be the best book ever on learning fiction writing.
Thanks again.
Molly

newbe said...

"kill him," "make it look like one of the clans did it" the command was uttered in a conversational tone, but Brent knew it was serious. "did you have any one in mind?"