A few weeks ago, I asked my readers to send me their first line to see if I think it would hook readers or not. I received quite a few samples, so I’ll split this into three posts. I’m no longer accepting samples, as I already have enough for these posts. Thanks to all who have participated. Reading is subjective. Just because I like or don’t like something doesn’t mean others will feel the same way.
Let’s take a look at some hooks.
1) Brianagh O’Rourke whole-heartedly believed in happily-ever-afters, despite the sparkling engagement ring at which she was currently gaping.
I’M HOOKED. This is interesting. We know Brianagh is a romantic at heart. She’s engaged to be married, yet the word “despite” tell us she’s not happy about the man she’s marrying. I want to know why. Is she being forced to marry him? Is she marrying him out of obligation? Has she given up on love and is settling with this guy? I’d have to read on to find out. Great job!
2) Pulling my aging body up the creaking steps, I noticed the air in the attic was warm, musty, and dust fairies sparkled in the sunlight filtering through one of the dormer windows.
I’M NOT HOOKED. There’s not enough here to entice me to read further. I don’t know the character and have not yet developed feelings for him/her, so I don’t care that he/she has an aging body. Because the character TELLS us he/she NOTICES something rather than just SHOW us what he/she notices, I’m wondering if the story will have SHOW/TELL issues. Also, this sentence is passive because it starts with an “ing” verb. To make this active, the author would have to change this to “I pulled my aging body…” Maybe the story will need certain details like the aging body, the creaking steps, the warm, musty attic air, and the dust fairies sparkling through the windows, but those details aren’t important enough to use in the first sentence. Hook the reader first, then add these kinds of details by layering them into the story. Start with another part of the first page or add a sentence before this one.
3) They say that out of every ten grad students, two will be unemployed when they graduate.
I’M NOT HOOKED. While this is interesting information, you have to keep your author voice in mind. What will the reader think when she reads this? My first impression is that this is a nonfiction book or that the novel will read like a nonfiction book, which is not what readers expect when then open a novel. That doesn’t mean you can’t add this in later if it’s important to the story. I just wouldn’t start with it. You want to begin with something that will either make the reader ask questions and need to know more about the story or the characters, or you want to showcase your voice and hook the reader that way.
If you’re interested in learning more about how to hook readers throughout your novel and not just with the first line, check out my class called Hook, Line, and Sinker: How to Hook Readers and Reel Them In. For more details about the classes I teach, go here or click on my classes tab.
Come back for more first line critiques next week.