Hooking a Reader (Quote of the Day)

When I began the novel I’m currently working on, Ourselves and Others, this was my process:

  1. Thought, “I’m going to write a book based on what happened to me.”
  2. Opened a word document.
  3. Proceeded to write the most boring 10 pages I could possibly write.

Luckily, upon an initial reading I realized it was awful and promptly scrapped it in favor of “take 2,” which is 300 times better than my first try. But even after starting over, things were rocky for a while. I ended up completely restructuring the opening, changing tenses, and renaming my main character about three times before the first chapter was up to snuff.

This only proved to me that the hardest part of the writing process is indeed the beginning. Getting started is difficult enough on its own, but then creating something that will hook readers and draw them into the story? That’s the real challenge. That’s where the fate of your book hangs in the balance, after all. A novel could be a masterpiece, but if the beginning doesn’t attract, no one will read far enough to find that out.

Personally, when beginning a project I always try to think, “What would make me want to read this book?” and then write that thing. Easier said than done, I know. But I do have a little trick up my sleeve to help with that:

Raise a question.

That’s it; it’s that simple. In the first paragraph—in the first line, if you can—present a question that must be answered. Curiosity is a great motivator for the reader. And of course, you don’t literally have to ask a question. What I mean is, say something that will make the reader ask a question—even something as basic as “what happened?” or “what does that mean?” They’ll read on to look for the answer, and hopefully your writing keeps them reading even after they find it.

Today’s Prompt: Write a story that begins in an ending and ends in a beginning.

And here’s a bonus “prompt” for those of you who have completed works or have works in progress:

Copy and paste the opening paragraph or two of your novel in the comments section. Share your beginning with the rest of us!

If you share your opening paragraph and you have something published, feel free to leave the link, just in case you’ve hooked somebody. ;)

I’ll be posting my openings in the comments as well, so read on if you’re interested.

Happy Writing!

KC

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9 thoughts on “Hooking a Reader (Quote of the Day)

  1. Ourselves and Others:

    She met him when her bones were strong and her mind was sick—like a brand new house set atop a crumbling foundation. On the surface, she was okay. It was the inside that was warped and rotting. But he didn’t mind; he was sick all over.

    “You’re new,” a slightly sarcastic voice breaks my concentration. I stop writing, the crayon in my hand hovering over a barely-scribbled on notebook page, and look up. I didn’t want to be noticed—I’ve been sitting at this table for an hour, just hiding beneath the voices nearby. Now one of those voices is talking to me.

    ***

    The questions this raises: Who is talking to the narrator? Where exactly is she new? Why is she writing in crayon? Why doesn’t she want to be noticed?

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  2. The Maronet:

    I’ve been deactivated. The transport capsule slides to a smooth stop about a mile short of my house. It’s supposed to bring me to my door, but I don’t mind; after being away from home for a month, I could use a walk through the neighborhood.

    The silver cuffs around my wrists and ankles retract into the seat, leaving a strange and pulsing emptiness behind them. “Passengers, please stand and exit single file. Shoving, running, and general meandering will not be tolerated,” an electronic voice commands from a speaker at the front of the chamber. I’ve named it Wilson, after my stray-turned-pet cat. He’s dead now.

    ***
    The questions this raises: Deactivated? What does that mean? Why has the narrator been away from home for a month? Where has she been? What is a “transport capsule?” What kind of world does this person live in?

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  3. Griffin (The Book of Mezerith):

    Most of the time fear shows itself in someone’s eyes, but not in the girl’s. Her face is like a mask and her eyes, so dark they’re almost black, do nothing but reflect whatever lies in front of them. You’d almost think she’s never afraid—but she is.

    Her fear shows up in the way she flinches when a twig snaps or the way she snaps when you talk to her. It’s there when you walk close enough for her to smell you, and you can certainly see it when you get closer and she lays a hand on her knife hilt. You can’t help but know she’s as scared as the rest of us, but still she tries to hide it.

    The girl. I call her that because she’s the only one with us. When we started there were three of them. At that point she was “the dark-haired girl” because the others had hair the color of dried yellow corn—kind of like mine. Those two were sisters. We buried them a day apart.

    ***

    The questions this raises: Who is “the girl?” Why is she afraid, and why are they all afraid? Why are people dying and getting buried anyway?

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  4. Reign of Fire

    “Just one more good push, okay dear?” Bastion placed his arm on Felicity’s bare shoulder, and then mopped the sweat from her forehead. “What’s the problem?” He said in a growl to the Water midwife.

    “I’m sorry my Lord TrueMatch. I just can’t seem to get a feel for the child.”

    “Try harder.”

    “Bastion..” Felicity said, pushed her sweat stained red hair away from her eyes. “Is anything wrong?”

    Bastion returned to patting Felicity’s shoulder and holding her hand. “Nothing’s wrong. Everything is-”

    “They are going to be beautiful.” Felicity said.

    “’They’? What tells you there’s more than one?”

    “I can …” Felicity gazed off into the distance. “I can feel them, Bastion. It is such a peculiar feeling. It’s like, they are Pulling the Affinity from within me. A boy and a girl, I think.”

    While Felicity seemed serene, that last part troubled him. Pulling on her Affinity?

    “You, midwife.” Bastion let go of Felicity’s hand and pointed. “what is flaming happening?”

    “Pardon me, mi’Lord, but I can’t tiding tell,” she said from the foot of the heavy oak four bed. She inhaled, and her eyes shined cerulean, drawing in her Water Affinity. She reached out with both hands, using the stored Empathy to gently Pull and Push on the water inside Felicity’s womb. Pushing and Pulling, exhaling and inhaling, Affinity and Empathy. Afin’s gift to all her children. The ones she loved, at least. “The child, if there do be one, I should do be able to feel the babe’s Affinity if its there.” She exhaled a pale blue mist, releasing the Affinity in defeat. “But I can’t flooding feel a thing.”

    To not have my Affinity, Bastion thought. He shuddered in horror

    //Wow, Not as impressive as it could be, but promise, my first chapter is pretty Kick A!

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  5. Untitled and very much in draft stages.

    The sun was just beginning to creep out from beyond an obscured horizon, casting the gentle glow of morning over an otherwise adumbral cityscape. A garbage truck noisily rounded the bend before coming to an abrupt and obstreperous halt in a furious hiss of compressed air and hydraulic clang that sent pigeons scattering. The machine’s beacons splashing orange cautionary blinks across the shadows, bouncing stroboscopically off the tinted glass and anodised framework which soon would house the city’s commercial workforce. It might have appeared that all this chaos was in some maniacal, mechanical protest to the unperturbed woman crossing the street ahead of it, particularly once its giant mechanical arms commenced flailing up and down.

    The truck jolted forward.

    Stopped.

    Jolted forward again.

    The truck began to work its way through the series of bins lining the narrow city street, methodically emptying one at a time. As Plato once remarked, “The beginning is the most important part of the work.” And so it would prove to be.

    The bins resembled portly, khaki clad soldiers which appeared to be guarding the towering apartments. Abruptly the truck came to a complete stop, airbrakes hissed and whined. The driver’s door swung open and a burly man in a bright yellow polo climbed down from the cab. He walked over to what would be the next bin in the row, and swung open the lid. Peculiar, a garbage truck driver lifting the lid on a bin before suddenly buckling over and vomiting.

    One would expect a garbage truck driver to have a rather strong stomach.

    Liked by 2 people

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