When you're browsing a bookstore, do you just read the blurb on the back of the book, or do you open the cover and read a couple of paragraphs to see if you might like what's inside?
I'm betting you do a little of both. Well, the people who plan to read your novel will likely do the same thing. Why not hook them with a little bit of oomph? There are a couple of things people don't even know they're looking for, but if those things are missing, their reader brains will shut off and your book will be stuck back on the shelf or dropped back on the table.
Some of these, I bet you even do on accident. Besides the tips on using powerful words, from a post I wrote on the first one hundred, you have to set certain things up. If you missed the post before this one, I recommend checking it out, too.
- You have to hook the reader into the story. This goes back to that post on the first one hundred words. These words should be powerful and resonate deeply in the soul. Perhaps even introduce the central conflict or present a question that will be answered later. Either way, you want them to keep reading.
- Consistency is the ruler of all else. Your beginning should set the tone and establish rules you'll adhere to later on in the story. Don't have the reader walk into a suspense thriller only to throw them into fairy land a page later (unless it's a fantasy thriller with killer sprites that slash people to death with razor wings). You get the point here. Also, don't use a hook that has nothing to do with the rest of the novel. Readers will feel, rightly so, they've been hoodwinked.
- Give the central conflict. Your reader wants to know why they should keep reading. If Jane is going to plod through the book with no direction or goal, it probably won't be something many (any?) people would enjoy spending time on. There's room for some action. If you're using a prologue, this is where you can show the blood, guts, and gore (if that's what your book is all about) just before the bad guy escapes and leaves a path of death in his wake. Yes!
- Hint at the ending. Have you ever been stuck at the end of a story that's flown from your fingers up until that point? It might be time to start reading your manuscript from the beginning. If you've crafted it well, you'll have an idea of where it's going by examining where it began. Readers like that, too! When they have a vague idea of what might happen, they're intrigued enough to buy the book to find out. Think "central conflict" as mentioned above.
Did you know any of these? What's your favorite hundred opening words of all time?
Well, that's all for today, folks! Until next time, WRITE ON!