It was a dark and stormy night.

» Posted on Mar 10, 2006 in Blog | Comments Off on It was a dark and stormy night.

I think this is the Snoopy famous opening for his book he was writing in his comic strip which brings me to my topic–opening hooks. How important is it to grab the reader in the first line or at least in the first paragraph or page? Very important. Many people will read the first page or so, and if the story doesn’t grab them, they will put the book back on the shelf and not buy it.

When I began writing back in the dark ages, we had stories that took longer to develop. We often would introduce one of the main characters then the other before we brought them together. That has shifted to faster openings. Editors are looking for the hero and heroine to get together right away in the story. For most stories that is fine, but there are still some stories that it wouldn’t work as well for.

Here are some opening lines of books I really enjoyed reading:
From the prologue to Amazonia by James Rollins:
“Padre Garcia Luiz Batista was struggling with his hoe, tilling weeds from the mission’s garden, when the stranger strumbled out of the jungle.”
In case you are a reader that doesn’t really count the prologue as the first true chapter, this is from chapter one:
“The anaconda held the small Indian girl wrapped in its heavy coils, dragging her toward the river.”

From those two sentences you can tell this will be an action packed adventure and it was. It is one of my favorite books. Did I tell you I love books about the jungle?
Another first line from one of James Rollins’ books (Excavation) is:
“There was no escape.”
Now I would have to read further to find out no escape from where.

Another book I really enjoyed is Tami Hoag’s A Thin Dark Line. Its opening line is:
“Red is the color of violent death.”
Great opening line and definitely sets the tone for the rest of the book.

So my questions to you are:
What are you favorite opening lines?
Does an opening have to have a hook to keep you reading?
What do you look for in an opening (first few pages)?
When do you put a book down? I usually will read a book cover to cover even if it is slow because I learn from both. Lately because my time is more limited, I don’t do that as much. So I need to be grabbed by the end of the first chapter or two. How about you?