1. Kaij
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    Kaij Senior Member

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    The opening hook

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Kaij, May 6, 2008.

    Everyone knows that the first few lines/paragraph is supposed to have a good hook to draw a reader in. I usually go by this, since if the beginning isn't interesting, how am I to know that the rest of the novel is? Beginnings also show if the writer uses cliches or decides to be creative. Anybody waking up in the morning at the beginning of a novel is stupid. An opening Landscape Scene is also another lame attempt at an opening, but ah well. This isn't a topic on cliches.

    What do you guys do for the beginning lines of your books? And would you care to share a few starter lines?

    For me, I think of where I want the beginning of my story to be set at. The crucial point in a story, you could say. After this, I come up with a few random lines, and see which one fits best.

    Examples from an older book of mine that I'm beginning to rewrite are below~

    ----

    Wolven Spirit
    - The starving black maw of the night had eaten everything--sucked every celestial body into oblivion--just as it always did on this day.

    - Eons of gazing at the night, feeling like a blind man treading the cave of sleeping bears, Vyce saw the dim streak that would put his long-thought-of plan to action.

    - Some people wonder how to catch a falling star. There's a simple answer to this: you don't.

    - "So many centuries have passed, Sister, and you finally arrive. Come, let's play power."
     
  2. Gone Wishing
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    Gone Wishing Contributing Member

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    My favourite first lines are ones that intrigue, make make you want to know what happens next right from the start. They don't necessarily have to be little summaries or hint at the story entirely, they set a mood and I think that sometimes landscape descriptions can be used to great effect.

    I'm no expert, of course, I'm still learning myself. I'll share a couple of my opening lines and you can judge for yourself how effective they are ;) (By the way, I like the last one you have there :))

    These are all from different stories:

    From the house of Angels and ghosts, I often hear tears full of sorrow and lament; and sometimes joy.

    Sometimes when it was cold and his father was asleep, the boy would touch his fathers’ hands.

    “You're an *******,” Seth said, sliding an unopened pack of smokes across the table.
     
  3. Kaij
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    Kaij Senior Member

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    Nice, nice. I enjoyed the middle one, it intrigued me the most. I think what pushed me away from the first one is that "angels" is capitalized, but "ghosts" is not. It didn't look right to me. The last one was humorous, but I don't think it would catch my attention too much if I looked at it to decide if I wanted a read X)
     
  4. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I too like to begin with a sentence that immediately implies a question for the reader, and usually something both active and personal for the character I am opening with. Here are the opening sentences from the short stories in my blog on this site:

    Todd Rizzo could not keep his eyes off the gun.

    Brakes screamed, and the world spun.

    Nothing lasts forever. Stars are born of coalescing dust and gases, compressed under their own weight until they burst into nuclear brilliance. (Ok, 2 sentences here, but the first one was short :))

    He had a feeling in his bones that this would be one of those days.

    Virgil Lambreaux was a dead man, and he knew it.
     
  5. Kaij
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    Kaij Senior Member

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    Dang, Cogito, those are pretty good :p I liked all of them except for the third, it wasn't as intriguing as the other sentences you've written. It sounded more like the beginning of a lecture on space rather than an event that the reader could be sucked into.
     
  6. Gone Wishing
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    Gone Wishing Contributing Member

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    Heh, you're right about the capitalisation issue, I often confuse myself with whether or not I want to capitalise 'angels' in that sentence.

    The last one is just from a short, lighthearted piece I recently wrote as a fun exercise for an informal contest. :)

    Cogito... Now I have to go and read the rest of the story for that first one! :p
     
  7. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    The story titles, in order, were:

    Forever In a Heartbeat
    Blue
    Neverending (the short story version)
    A Day in the Death
    Cold Pursuit

    The third one probably was the slowest getting started. But it's also the one I'm reworking into a novel. The new beginning differs only slightly, but it immediately brings focus to the main character:

    Nothing lasts forever, he thought. Stars are born of coalescing dust and gases, compressed under their own weight until they burst into nuclear brilliance.
     
  8. Gone Wishing
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    Gone Wishing Contributing Member

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    Ah! That actually reads a lot smoother - and does generate more interest, I must say. :)
     
  9. Kaij
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    Kaij Senior Member

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    Yes, that does read a lot smoother than the originally posted one. I think I'd want to read Blue and Forever in a Heartbeat first before any of the other stories just by the opening lines
     
  10. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    my first lines almost always come to me right off the bat... here are just a few:

    Whether they came from some far off galaxy or had been here, well-hidden, all along, we were never to know. One day, they simply appeared among us, big, terrifying... and incredibly ugly.
    [short story 'Top Dogs and Bottom Feeders'... on my website in essays section]

    He looked at her as if he hadn’t eaten for a week and she smelled more like a Big Mac and French fries than the French perfume he was getting high on.
    [Beginner's Luck'...triple-x-rated short story, available only on request]

    At first, the glut of ads in the New York Times travel section was daunting.
    ['It's Greek to Me'...ditto above]


    The Hopi knew.

    ['Fifth World'... novel/screenplay in-the-works... on website under 'other works']

    How’d I get to be “maia”? Good question. It was weird.
    ['A Weird Life'... auto-bio-in progress, on website under 'other works']

    SHE hadn't shown it all in a Vegas spotlight for ten or twelve years, but the ex-showgirl's body could still stop traffic. Especially at high noon, in the parking lot of a West L.A. motel, when it came stumbling out of Room #312 without even a sequined G-string to hide its centerfold proportions.
    ['Sin & Sanctimony'... novel from my old life that i'll never finish... parts of it exerpted in 'Hollywood Homicide' essay on site]
     
  11. Kaij
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    Kaij Senior Member

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    That second one caught my attention the most. I even quirked a brow at it. Hmm, not bad Mamma! :D
     

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