Once upon a time there was a little girl who lived in a cozy white house in the country with her grandmother. The little girl’s name was Mary, and she had curly blond hair and brown eyes the color of chocolate. She lived with her grandmother because her parents were abducted during the last alien invasion, when the evil overlord Qíogg ordered his minions to capture as many humans as possible so their combined life force could help power his fleet of spaceships.
Are you asleep yet? Or did your eyes glaze over rendering you awake yet wholly catatonic? Read on for some tips on enticing your readers.
As authors, our desire is to entice our readers. We want them to be so hooked by the very first words of our stories that they refuse to let go. We want them to be sucked into the vortex of story. We want them to get washed away in the whirlwind of words. We want them too…
You get the idea.
The way to hook readers from the very start instead of curing their insomnia is to begin, well, with a hook. It ís kind of like fishing, only instead of baiting it with a nasty, squirming worm; our job is to bait them with questions.
Let me explain by using some personal examples.
This is the beginning of my Top Secret Work in Process:
The old man had a decision to make.
He stared out his bedroom window at the rain that fell like mist over the yard and surrounding woods. The moon peeked through a gap in the storm clouds, illuminating the pair of rain-washed automobiles parked in front of the detached garage at the bottom of the hill. He tried to remember if he had left his Grand Marquis unlocked. He hoped that he had. It would enable a speedier getaway.
Unlike the opening example in which the reader is presented with a rather uninteresting info dump about aliens and blond-haired little girls, this one will make a reader begin to ask those questions I previously mentioned. What is the decision the old man needs to make? Who is he? Why does he need to flee? Is he a criminal? Or is somebody else after him?
To find out, the reader will press onward. They have successfully been hooked.
Now let’s reexamine that opening vignette. We might turn it into a hook something like this:
Mary stood on her grandparent’s porch, gripping the railing with her small fingers. Her gaze was fixed on the sky, where a thin white vapor trail left the only evidence that the visitors had ever been there.
A lump rose in her throat and she tried not to cry. The ship was no longer in sight. They were gone. For good. And there was absolutely nothing she could do.
Now the reader has some questions. Who were the visitors? Why is Mary sad? Is Mary a child? Why is she so helpless?
To conclude, here are some tips for creating opening hooks:
•DON’T bury the reader in details.
•DO provide enough information to pique their curiosity.
•DON’T tell the whole back story in a single paragraph.
•DO provide back story bit by bit.