But yeah, all good things come to an end, and as it happens, I’m ending my time here by giving a spot of advice on beginnings.
See, I think writers have a tendency of looking at hooks wrong. Agents have this way of hammering on the importance of the first sentence, and as a result, writers agonize about how to make the first line as intriguing as possible.
The thing is…I believe that hooks are way much more than just a first line. Furthermore, hooks do more than make people want to read the next sentence. Which means that more often than not, I’m reading stories that start with a major gimmick for the first line but the immediate follow-up falls way short.
Hooks are there to serve one of two functions. If they’re good, they serve both. 1) They bring the reader into the character’s world. 2) They make the reader ask a question that would take further reading to answer.
Honestly of the two, the latter is more important. However, it’s important to note that “What the heck is going on?” is not the question you should be going for. Why would he/she say this? Think this? Do this? What leads up to it? How will the character react to it? Those are all good questions to encourage a reader to ask.
That’s a tough task to achieve with one sentence, though. Which is why you shouldn’t even strive for this. Instead, see the hook as something that must take place over the first five pages of your book. (But aim for fewer pages.)
How it works is this:
First line makes the reader ask a question that encourages them to read the first paragraph. The first paragraph encourages the reader to read the second paragraph and on and on, each successive paragraph “hook” sucking the reader in deeper.
And before the reader knows it, they’ll be at the end of chapter 1 and paging over.
But an incredible opening line followed by no further hooking just doesn’t work. So stop cleaning up those few words and look at the bigger picture, will you? Overall, those first five pages are much more important than just the first line.
Thanks all! It's been fun.