Nine ways to hook your reader
with a powerful opening sentence.
Maybe you’re like me in that your blank computer screen acts a bit like an impenetrable wall one moment and an empty canvas of possibilities, awaiting your inspired ideas the next.
Picture it… While you’re hanging out at your local coffee shop, a girl at the table near yours tells her friend about an incident at school involving their class guinea pig, a projector cord, and a schoolwide black out. Your eyes bulge behind your iced cappuccino. What you just overheard is the makings of a humorous story.
Over the next number of days or weeks, you create a list of characters and give each a life and a history. The story problem becomes clear as you plot the grandest of all middle-grade adventures. Notes in hand, you sit before your laptop, typing out that first brilliant sentence that will have readers begging to know what happens next.
That’s about the time your inner editor bluntly tells you that what you wrote is sludge. “That gopher hole in your back yard,” she says, “has a better opening than this!”
Delete, delete, delete…
Where to start?
1. Begin with one attention-grabbing word.
Darkness. Pitch darkness filled every square inch of my school today thanks to our class guinea pig, Percival Pickles.
2. Make a comparison.
I wish I had been placed in Mr. Dowfeld’s class with the hairy tarantula instead of in Mrs. Peach’s class with Percival Pickles, a guinea pig with serious powers.
3. Start with a powerful moment that raises curiosity.
Every room in my school went into a sudden blackout.
4. Begin with a fact.
Not every guinea pig makes a good classroom pet.
5. What sound can be heard?
Nibble, munch, squeeee! All of Lincoln Jr. High fell into darkness when Percival Pickles, our class guinea pig, bit the projector cord.
6. Start with a question.
What happens when a guinea pig mistakes the projector cord for his lunch?
7. Open with a fact that hints at something significant.
Death is merely one side effect that comes when a classroom pet electrocutes itself.
8. Begin with an intriguing fact.
Nobody, not even Percival Pickles, our classroom guinea pig, could believe an electrical shock could shoot his IQ off the charts.
9. Let your readers hear the compelling voice of your main character.
At 8:15 this morning, the single most important thought peddling through my head was to scamper to my squeaky wheel and play. Twenty-three minutes later, I’m well into understanding Einstein’s theory of relativity.
If you have a favorite way to hook readers with a great opening, I invite you to post it in the comments.
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