Monday, June 15, 2015

Hooks, Lines and Sinkers: How to Reel in Readers





Janet here. I'm revisiting a post I wrote in 2012 that I thought deserved another look. We writers work long and hard to get that perfect hook to open our book—that first line that we write and rewrite to reach perfection--but we may not pay much attention to all the other opening lines in our chapters and scenes. I'll admit that the challenge is daunting to write first lines that will hook readers and keep them turning pages for 30-60 scenes.

We writers may open a scene/chapter with Point of View character's name. That's fine but if we don't vary our openings, we're apt to bore readers. Something we never want to do. 

We also may use opening lines to establish the timeline or day for the reader, but if overdone this technique risks reading like a dated journal.

We may write opening lines that reveal the setting or weather. Again nothing wrong with that if those elements hook readers. 

The problem comes when we write like real life, instead of using creative lines to open our scenes and chapters that will hook readers. 

I want to make the point that trying to write brilliant opening lines every time might keep us from getting the book written. LOL Worse, we could try so hard to write a hook that all that cleverness could get annoying.  

I found some opening lines in my books that I'm proud of, but I was surprised how often I'd written opening lines that were deadly dull, what I'll call sinkers. By sinkers, I mean lines that fail to hook, lines that sink into oblivion.

To give an example of a sinker from my debut, Courting Miss Adelaide, Sept. 2008: 

                 Charles walked the few blocks to the Ledger, his stride brisk. 

I lost an opportunity to grab readers, especially since a few sentences later Charles learns a woman had apparently hung herself. That piece of news is central to the plot and would've hooked readers far better.
          



SO HOW CAN WE UP EXCITEMENT, INTEREST WITH CLEVER OPENING LINES? 

SOMETIMES BY USING THE SECOND LINE AND OMITTING THE FIRST 

As I looked at my opening lines, I was also surprised to see that the second line often hooked me more than the first. If I’d flipped the two sentences, I’d have a stronger hook. Or in this example from Wanted: A Family, March 2011, I could’ve simply omitted the first mundane sentence:

Jake sat in Callie’s parlor holding Elise’s baby against his chest. Inside the blanket, the poor little thing drew her knees up, screeching like an alley cat in a midnight skirmish. And Jake didn’t know the first thing about comforting her.

A small tweak to the second line establishes the POV character and grabs the reader far better:

Inside the blanket, Elise’s baby drew her knees up, screeching like an alley cat in a midnight skirmish. And Jake didn’t know the first thing about comforting her.

This exercise made me see that a hooky opening line might not stand alone. The good news—it doesn’t have to. We can either write a second line to establish the point of view character and the setting. Or we can tweak that hooky opening line by adding the point of view character’s name later in the sentence.

I looked at opening lines that drew me and found several ways to start that can reel in readers. While the POV character name and setting may also be given, these sentences pop off the page because they show conflict, raise the stakes, establish tension.

·         START WITH DIALOGUE 

           “I don’t like you.” The pale blue eyes staring at Elizabeth were defiant, strong, so like her                    father, and not about to be dissuaded by a scorched bowl of soup. Janet Dean, The Substitute              Bride, LIH, Feb. 2010.

            "Jason," Melanie yelled, as she caught her son by his shirt collar. "Stay back!" Audra                          Harders, Rocky Mountain Hero, LI, Jan. 2011.

"I can't find Sally." Ruth Logan Herne, A Family to Cherish, Men of Allegany County, LI, June 2012. 

·         START WITH ACTION

          Heart in his throat, Jamison pulled to the curb and hit the ground running, weapon in                         one hand, MagLite in the other. Debby Giusti, The Colonel’s Daughter, LIS, Aug. 2012                            
·         START WITH ONE OF THE FIVE SENSES

           Even from yards away, the odor hit Elizabeth harder than a belch from Reginald Parks. Janet              Dean, The Substitute Bride, LIH, Feb. 2010

           From the look on her face, you’d have thought he’d asked her to help him dispose of a body.                Glynna Kaye, Second Chance Courtship, LI, February 2011
.
          The hospital smelled like a mix of cleaning products and rubbing alcohol as Michele stepped               into the elevator ahead of Jamison. Debby Giusti, The Colonel’s Daughter, LIS, Aug 2012.

·         START WITH SETTING

I’m not talking about setting as “in the parlor.” I’m talking about using descriptions that evoke emotion, establishing mood, or raise questions.  

           The sun shot rays of light into David Wellman’s office, shouting the start of a new day and                   grating against his every nerve. Janet Dean, Last Minute Bride, Brides of the West, LIH,                    April 2012.

         From under the leafy sugar maple, Katherine watched Andrew and Randy huddle on            the dock like a pair of conspirators. Cara James, A Path of Love, Aug. 2012

·         START WITH PHYSICAL REACTIONS

              Katherine's heart tightened, and for a split second she froze, staring as the train hurtled                      down upon them.  Cara James, A Path of Love, Aug. 2012.

·         START WITH CONFLICT

              Just what he didn’t need. A shadow from his past. One with big, sparkling brown                                 eyes looking at him like he walked on water. Glynna Kaye, High Country Hearts, LI,                           March 2012

            Outside the parsonage, her new husband turned to Elizabeth, the chill in his steely                              gray-blue eyes raising goose bumps on her arms. Janet Dean, The Substitute Bride,                              LIH, May 2010

·         START WITH ROMANCE

Romance doesn’t have to be a kiss or touch, though it can be. Use openings to show the POV character’s interest in the other protagonist.

          The fishing poles were a ruse. Not that Jake would                admit as much to Callie. Janet Dean, Wanted: A              Family, LIH, Mar. 2011.

 Jake’s invitation to go fishing was just an excuse to spend time with Callie. The second line establishes his POV. 

·         START WITH MYSTERY OR A VAGUE REFERENCE

            It was time. Janet Dean, An Inconvenient Match, LIH, Jan. 2012.


If you’ve read my post on bugaboos, you know too many it was/there was constructions bug me. Used sparingly they can be effective and raise questions.

Fifty-two hundred dollars.

Cam added the hard knot of financial anxiety alongside five years of guilt and figured he deserved both. Ruth Logan Herne, A Family to Cherish, LI, June 2012.

This excerpt would fit equally well under introspection/sequel. But that dollar amount was vague enough to make me want to know more.

·         START WITH HUMOR 

           Like every other time when she'd had dealings with her husband, right from the                                    moment she'd found him feverish in an army hospital in Georgia, Callie had to do all                          the thinking. Mary Connealy, Over the Edge, Aug. 2012.

           Seth hadn’t gotten a minute alone with his wife since—he paused. Had he ever                                      gotten a minute alone with her? At least when she was fully conscious? Mary                                        Connealy, Over the Edge, Aug. 2012. 

The punch line is the last sentence. Some lines need to be built upon and don’t work as openers.

           Geraldine Whitehall was dying. Again.  Janet Dean, Courting the Doctor’s Daughter,                            LIH, May 2009.

·         START WITH INTROSPECTION/SEQUEL

           Last evening, the mood between Elise and David had gone from congenial to chillier                            than homemade ice cream and had given Elise just as big a headache. Janet Dean,                                Last Minute Bride, Brides of the West, LIH, April 2012.

·         START WITH UNSPOKEN PRAYER

           Lord, what do you want from me? Audra Harders, Rocky Mountain Hero, LI, Jan.                                2011

·         START WITH A QUESTION

Why did Michele continue to get under his skin? The Colonel’s Daughter, LIS, Aug. 2012.
THIS WRITER KNOWS A GREAT HOOK WILL REEL IN HER READERS
TIE ENDINGS AND BEGINNINGS TOGETHER

Myra Johnson uses this technique in the following examples:

             [End scene]She watched him watching her lips, and her world shifted. Everything . . .            everything was about to change forever.
             [Next scene, in hero's POV If you do this, it changes everything.

             [End chapter] She cleared her throat, gaze locked on her folded hands. "I think it's                safe to say you've found what you were looking for."


             [Next chapter] Nathan had found what he was looking for, all right. Didn't take much              convincing to realize he was falling deeper in love every day.

When we use opening lines effectively, we give readers way more than the who, when and where and keep them turning pages.

I'm sure you can find other types of opening lines than I've listed here. If you're brave, share an opening line that hooks you from a chapter and scene that you’ve read or written. I hope to learn more from all of you. For a chance to win a $10 Amazon gift card, leave a comment.

I brought dessert pizza, a cookie dough crust with cream cheese and fruit. It’s a work of art and sure to grab your attention as much as those opening lines.

125 comments :

  1. Am I the first to comment?

    Wonderful post, Janet. You've inspired me to do better with my chapter and scene openings. Loved your examples that highlighted the points you made so perfectly.

    I always learn from your blog posts!

    Now, I'm heading to bed.

    See you in the morning! :)

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  2. I would climb through this computer screen right now to get a dessert cookie!

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  3. I am all over that dessert pizza!!!! Maybe enough to make one today!!!! Mary, I'll join you!

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  4. Janet, I agree with Deb, I forget basics now and again and this is the perfect head's up! COFFEE IS HERE!!!!!

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  5. Good Morning Seekerville! What a great show and tell example post. Thank you sooo much, Janet.

    I like to review my current WIP with posts like this to see if I got LAZY!!!

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  6. Janet, thanks for a wonderful check list! I enjoyed reading the examples.

    An excellent 'showing' how to do it post. I make a practice of reading first liners—just for fun. Sometimes after reading the first line, I have to keep reading . . . I go back and think on why the line held my attention.

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  7. Thanks for a great post, Janet! There's so much focus on ending hooks and not as much on first lines. I appreciate your help.

    The line that made me laugh out loud?

    Even from yards away, the odor hit Elizabeth harder than a belch from Reginald Parks.

    Have a great day!

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  8. Mary Hicks, that's interesting. I never thought about first lines until I was writing them, and then I realized that capturing interest is crucial.

    But then I've read wonderful books where the first line was "blah" and I still liked the book and it got published!

    I do what Tina does, too. Now with these reminders in my head I'll be more vigilant as I'm working on my WIP... It's amazing how a little wake-up call makes a difference!

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  9. Hi Janet,
    On opening lines, I started Ruthy's Prairie Promises last night from the Homestead Brides. Her opening line is catchy, "State your business or get shot. Your choice." Now that grabs your attention and makes the reader want to find out what's going on.

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  10. Janet, I love revisiting opening lines! I don't think you can ever become too proficient in your hooks. Thanks, too, for including all the examples. Much like the first time around, this post is a keeper.

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  11. I liked reading this. I'm ready for a goody to go with my coffee.

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  12. Jackie, for this early in the morning, I had a few LOL moments while reading the opening lines, too. The one you mentioned was one of them : )

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  13. Hi Janet:

    I have some wonderful Panera coffecake so I'll pass on the food comments. I also enjoyed all the happy hooking first sentence examples. In addition I have an advertising observation to make that I think might help romances writers.

    While everyone loves a captivating first sentence, especially contest judges who grade one less than stellar entry after another, tested advertising methods show that the purpose of the first sentence is to begin delivering on the promise made in the headline and then to induce the reader into reading the second sentence and so on down the line until the last sentence ends with a call to action.

    In romance writing the headline could be the cover art, the title, and the blurb. But let's say we use just the art and title for this example.

    The artwork example is the cover of Ruth's "Healing the Lawman's Heart". The title is "A Family of Her Own".

    Now we know the promise of the story. The heroine finds a family of her own. That is the theme that sold the book. The first sentence should immediately follow up on that theme.

    Example first sentence:

    Mary Nearlycontray always dreamed of having a family of her own… only she didn't think it could happen so quickly.

    That's it.

    You attract the reader with the art and the promise in the title and then on the first page, first sentence, you start delivering on the very promise that hooked the reader's attention in the first place. This is what wins awards and produces advertising copy that gets results.

    Off to the doctor's office!

    Vince

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  14. Wonderful post, Janet. This post definitely gets bookmarked, so I can refer back to it when I do edits. :)

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  15. Great tips, Janet! I never obsess about the opening line, at least at first. After I get into the story (or finish it!) I go back and revise the first line. Sometimes I delete the first 5 or so pages so working too hard on line 1 when I first begin writing would be a waste of time.

    I'm saving this post.

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  16. Morning, Janet,

    That's a great list. Thanks.

    Here's fresh coffee.

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  17. Definitely a post worth revisiting, Janet--thanks! These reminders really help keep me on my toes!

    I remember from one of my earliest writing lessons that one sure way to lose a reader is to begin a scene with the character just waking up or ended it with her drifting off to sleep. Those were once bad habits of mine, although occasionally I will use one or the other if it serves a real and obvious purpose for advancing the story.

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  18. Great post, Janet! It's funny, but sometimes it's an opening line that jump starts my whole book idea, sets the stage. For instance my October release, "Rekindling the Widower's Heart," opens with the heroine saying to the hero: "Not everyone is meant to be in your life forever, I guess."

    Vince is so right, that opening line is a promise to the reader and the rest of the book needs to deliver on it.

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  19. Ruthy, one of those first lines that made me read on was in one of your books.:-)

    Safely Home "I think my name is Brian."

    Why didn't he know what his name was? Had he been hurt . . . why didn't this person know his name?

    Years ago friends adopted a little girl. She came to them at age three. We were all excited, and our friends had a get-together to introduce their new daughter to everyone. I remember she kept looking at us as if we were all crazy when we called her Stephanie. I learned later our friends had been advised to change her name. She had been Samantha before—and remembered her old name. It took several months before she got used to her new name.

    Kinda broke my heart . . .

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  20. I can never get enough of posts that give tips for those great first lines. I struggle with hooky lines. :) Loved this post, Janet!

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  21. MARY HICKS, I can't even imagine what it was like for that little girl to get used to a new name. Although my daughter's brother-in-law and his wife adopted a group of siblings and gave them all new names. Part of the reason was because their birth names had negative connotations, and the family wanted to give the kids a fresh start.

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  22. Would love a slice of that yummy dessert pizza with my tea!! Thanks Janet for the reminder to hook with chapter first lines! It's so easy to keep writing without thinking about hooking!! Love the lists and now, I'll be revisiting first lines in my WIP. Another post to save!!

    I read a fun post somewhere on using the "It was...." line.
    It was : a dark and stormy night...
    : love at first sight
    : the best of times....
    : a wrong number


    Have a tea-lightful day everyone!!

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  23. TRACEY!!!!! I love that story, and I just crack up over how fun Bridget and Jack are! And love in a soddy!!! Talk about an unlikely experience, but it was such a pleasure to write. I've discovered a love for historicals and I'm not afraid to use it! And that is a great first line, LOL!

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  24. Cathy Ann, here's a nice big piece of that dessert pizza!!!!

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  25. Vince: Share the Panera, and no one gets hurt.

    :)

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  26. Vince, you are absolutely right. When an author can connect the cover/theme/opening so perfectly, it's a total trifecta!!!

    It's a writing hat-trick!

    It's a triple play of the highest order!!!!

    The tricky part of that is when covers come 6 months later, and everything else is written in stone.... The title is picked 9 months or more out, and while the opening can be possibly adjusted after the cover is shown to the author, it's often too late for anything more than a word or two, here or there.

    But I totally am taking this advice to heart because it's brilliant.

    And I'm going to try harder to make that opening line reflective of the theme. I will probably MESS THIS UP, but you'll know I'm trying!!!

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  27. Cara, I've dumped more openings than should be legally allowed! I'm way too wordy.

    SHOCKER!!!!!

    Laughing!

    And if you're wondering why I'm budging in today, Janet's away from her computer so we're here to make fun of her....

    Of course!!!!

    And chat wi' all o' youse!!!!

    So yes, I often have to excise pages and find where the story really starts.

    Charles Dickens was able to get away with that (and you hush up, Connealy, because I LOVE ME SOME DICKENS!!!!!)

    Ruthy and Mary and Janet and even Nora CAN'T DO IT.

    :)

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  28. Thanks for the treats from Panera's, Vince!!!

    Fine-tuning those opening lines comes in the rewrite phase for me. If a deadline looms, not all the little housekeeping chores get done. Must try to write smart from the get-go!

    Write fast and rework...or write slow and perfect each scene before moving on? That's always an interesting question.

    Anyone else struggle with which works best?

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  29. Rhonda S, your photo intrigues me. What are you reading? :)

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  30. Thanks for the reminder, Janet.

    I just went back and read the opening line for my WIP. On a scale of 1-10, I'd give it about a 6.5. So I know where to focus when I go back for the second draft!

    And I can't believe Vince mentioned Panera. I crave Panera on a good day, and today has already been a series of unfortunate events involving dogs and packing peanuts. But the closest Panera is 350 miles away :(

    I'll have to make do with the pizza cookie (which sounds fabulous, by the way!).

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  31. Janet - love this post. keeper for as I revise. I like the tie in of end w/ beginning concept.

    Mary Hicks - my heart hurts for that little three year old. (even if it was so long ago) made me feel like her life as a Samantha meant zero. maybe I'm just uber sensitive because I was adopted. (as an infant - but still... it gets me when people change names)

    Ruthy - you're making me laugh, and I'm supposed to be working. I just swung by for a quick peek between emails...

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  32. DEBBY asked: "Write fast and rework...or write slow and perfect each scene before moving on?"

    I tend to be on the slow side, pondering over each turn of phrase as I write. And since I usually reread and do light editing on the previous scene or chapter to begin each writing session, my "first" drafts are usually pretty clean.

    Also, I usually can't get started on a new wip until the opening line starts to gel. Once it comes to me, I'm off and running (or plodding, as the case may be).

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  33. This is a great post, Janet. I will save it and refer to it as I work on my book. I just went back and reread opening scenes and most of them are establishing day/time or setting. There are also some establishing weather, but since the book is about a tornado, some of that is necessary. Even then, I can change some of that a bit. But I think I like how I started the scene on the day of the tornado. "The first day of May dawned sunny and clear." That will be such a contrast to what will be coming. Also, it makes the characters think that maybe the forecast was wrong in predicting awful storms on this day.

    Keeping track of the timeline is also important in this book, but as I read these lines I could see how I could improve on many of these. For example, one scene begins with this sentence: "The next day at breakfast, Florence spoke." I see how easy it would be to start with her dialogue, making sure it is important to the story, and then insert who is talking and where they are.

    I also have issues with what Myra mentioned--opening and closing scenes with people sleeping. But I think I have an example of when it can be necessary. I would love to hear thoughts on this. A young woman in the story loses her grandmother in the tornado. I end one scene on the night of the storm with her crying herself to sleep in the shelter. Then I start her next scene where she wakes up but is in that moment between waking and sleeping where she doesn't quite remember what is happening, then is hit with a jolt when she remembers everything. Does that work?

    Please enter me into the drawing for the Amazon card!

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  34. I also felt sad reading about the young girl whose name had been changed. I wondered why they had been advised to change it? I can see in some instances it might be necessary, but a name is part of an identity, so I don't think it would always be necessary. I used to teach at Sylvan Learning Center and once had a student there (about 10 or 11 years old) who was adopted by his step dad. But not only did his last name change, he chose to also get a new first name. I believe he had the same first name as his bio dad and that was not something he wanted to keep. It was really strange calling him by a different name. At least that was his choice.

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  35. Hello Seekerville! Fun to read all the great comments to my revived post! Most of it is geared to all the lines that open scenes and chapters, which can be short changed. At least as compared to the book's opening line.

    Anyone care to share examples?

    Janet

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  36. Debby's first!! You were up late!

    Janet

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  37. RUTHY, I agree love in a soddy would be a VERY unlikely experience! Like the story says, with the mice, snakes and mosquitoes? No thanks. That's like going out in the backyard and digging a hole and living in it! Cooler? Probably, but clean sheets, baths and no critters along with a/c has spoiled me for modern day living. Especially a/c, its 104 heat index for 5 or 6 days running with no end in sight. Cabin fever is setting in!

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  38. Mary and Ruthy, the dessert pizza is on the buffet along with homemade chicken salad on raisin bread. Yummy!

    Janet

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  39. Ruthy, I can relate! I always refresh my memory with the teaching posts I write. Sometimes we're focused on getting the story on the page and forget the craft we know.

    Janet

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  40. Tina, lazy is a word I'd never associate with you!

    Just finished your latest book, a wonderful story!

    Janet

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  41. JANET,
    I like your humorous opening line, "Geraldine Whitehall was dying. Again."
    I haven't read Courting the Doctors Daughter yet, but now I want to. You're so right, lines that really hook the reader sell books.

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  42. Oh JANET! Such great reminders and suggestions! Like the gears of a fine Swiss watch fitting together precisely to ensure the right time, all the moving parts of a book require attention to keep the reader engaged. Whew. Lots more revision work ahead! Great 'oldie-but-goodie' post!

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  43. Mary H, I have trouble studying a great book because I get so caught up in the story that I forget to study how the author hooked me.

    Janet

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  44. Jackie, thanks! The hen house scene was do fun to write!!

    Janet

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  45. Tracey, that's a great line! Ruthy's following in Mary's footsteps!

    Janet

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  46. Audra, a good laugh is a great way to start the day. Second only to devotions.

    Janet

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  47. Cathy Ann, I've also brought cake for dessert.

    Janet

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  48. Vince, interesting idea. We definitely want to deliver on the premise. I'll go with the back cover blurb more than the title or cover. Still, it's important one line after another hooks and awards readers for reading. Another of your great points!

    Janet

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  49. Rhonda, excellent point that the place to improve first lines is in revisions. I do think the more we work at writing hooky lines the easier they are to write.

    Janet

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  50. DebH, that little girl is grown up with big kids of her own now. She's a feisty, go getter. Her adoptive parents gave her a wonderful life.:-)

    Me, too, Janet—I get lost in a good book and forget to 'study' it. I do first liners with intention, though. :-)

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  51. Cara, thanks for making the point that when we're writing opening lines, we will most likely rewrite them when the book is finished. Sometimes it's fun to tie the opening and ending lines together by having them echo each other.

    Janet

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  52. Helen, thanks for the coffee! I'm pouring a cup over ice. Warm today!

    Janet

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  53. Myra, I'm chuckling as half my scenes used to start with the heroine falling asleep or getting up. πŸ˜ƒ

    Janet

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  54. Oh yum! I want some dessert pizza. :)

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  55. Glynna, thanks for sharing a line that fulfills the authors promise. Looking forward to reading another great Glyyna Kaye story.

    Janet

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  56. Mary H, great example from Ruthy's book. Thanks for sharing your adoption story. I didn't realize changing a child's name is recommended. I can see that I'm a book.

    Janet

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  57. Jeanne T, I soak up every tip I can. But need to hear them often or I'll forget them!

    Janet

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  58. Kathryn, LOL Thanks for sharing!

    Janet

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  59. Ruthy, thanks for taking the helm today! I'm proud of me for figuring out how to answer with my phone. But the print is so tiny my eyes are crossing!

    Yes, Dickens we are not. Vince explained how the times permitted slow starts. What starts slow these days? Ah, besides me.πŸ˜—

    Janet

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  60. Alas, Debby, I revise as I go and still rewrite. Not easy being a perfectionist who is never satisfied. Hope others have better answers.

    Janet

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  61. Jan D, that's way far from a Panera! Have you considered a move? πŸ˜‰ Sorry about your frustrating day!

    Janet

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  62. Deb H, thanks! A laugh will reenergise you or so I hope!

    Janet

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  63. Myra, the set up has to gel with me before I can move forward. But that opening line can change.

    Janet

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  64. Sandra, congrats on studying your first lines.

    I like the examples from your story. First the sunny day will be a sharp contrast to what follows and I suspect the reader will not be fooled and will be worrying about the characters.

    I think your second example is fine. This is a very emotional crisis and waking up to realize the horror all over again can be very impactful.

    The point of my post is anything can work as long as we're not writing the same opening lines over and over. Or losing opportunities to tweak them for more of a hook.

    Janet

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  65. Sandy, I'm sure that boy had good reason for his choice. Hope he's happy with his new dad!

    Janet

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  66. Tracey, 104 is hot! Have you tried frying eggs on the sidewalk?

    Janet

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  67. Thanks Tracey! Mrs. Whitehall is a hypochondriac. A fun character to write. Hope you get to read Courting the Doctor's Daughter sometime.

    Janet

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  68. Lyndee, love your analogy. But it's intimidating too. Writers have to work hard not to let readers down. But readers will overlook the small stuff if they love our characters and their struggles.

    Janet

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  69. I loved this post. I Will be printing out to refer to often.

    This is a great day. Melissa Jagears' new book just arrived in the mail. So many great books to read. Plus I want to get some writing in.

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  70. HI Janet, I so enjoyed this post the first time as well as this time. Its a good reminder that we need to really pay attention to that first line.

    I like Vince's reminder that the first line is the act of keeping the promise of the title and cover. Good observation to point out.

    I think I will go back and look at my first line in my wips

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  71. CARA is so right about the first lines coming LATER.

    I often rework them many times. And still I find them frustrating. I focus so much on the BANG at the beginning and trying to make the reader come inside the book, that often the first line isn't specifically tailored to just ROCK THE WORLD like it should be.

    I'm going to go be a better writer now, Janet. Thank you.

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  72. Also, VINCE mocking us with his coffee cake gave this whole day a cruel twist!!!!!!!!!!!

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  73. JANET!!!!! You broke out so you could comment.

    be on the lookout for nets, okay? White coats? Like that???

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  74. Wilani Wahi,

    Enjoy Melissa's book! And piling up words!

    Janet

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  75. Janet, these are such great reminders! One thing you've taught me through critique is to check over each of the openings and endings!! :)

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  76. Amy C, thanks for stopping!

    Janet

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  77. Sandra, I love that multi-published autjors live you mever rest on your laurels. And it shows!

    Janet

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  78. Mary, you have no difficulty writing opening lines!

    Yikes sounds like I'm heading for a padded cell. Another example that you love to put people in jeopardy! LOL.

    Janet

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  79. Missy, thanks. And you're still trying to teach me when to use commas. GQ would be horrified.

    Janet

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  80. Sandra, hope you could decipher what I tried to say. The bumpy road and tiny font are challenging.

    No, Mary, I'm not driving.

    Janet

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  81. Janet, your post is so valuable for my story right now. I've already printed it out to keep for ready reference as I work to apply these ideas to my opening hook....and then each scene in the remainder of my WIP. I absolutely see how my second sentence does a better job of hooking than the first. And a question or prayer would work well.

    I'm hoping some of the dessert pizza is still left at this late afternoon hour. I'll take a tiny slice, then get to work. Thank you!

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  82. Janet, I can't leave Seekerville comments from my phone. It never allows me to make corrections or add a forgotten word and actually freezes up!

    Good for you making yours work today!

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  83. Lovely analogy about the watch, Lyndee!!!

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  84. Janet, I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE your books! Loved the post too! I can't think of a specific book where the lines grabbed me but there have been plenty! I know that is something I actually LOOK for when I choose a book! I want a book to hook me from the beginning and keep me interested so that first line or opening paragraph is really important to me! Thanks for your words today and I hope you are having a good beginning to your summer!
    Valri

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  85. Janet, thank you for your post - I love great opening lines in the books I read. Thought I'd post one from each book of another of the Seekers, for the benefit of those who have yet to read any of Julie Lessman's beautiful books:

    (1) I hope you're hungry, Mr. Caldwell, because I'm serving up crow. (Surprised
    By Love)
    (2) Oh, to be a calculating woman! (A Passion Denied)
    (3) I will not throw up ... I will not throw up ... (A Light in the Window)
    (4) Now this is how love should be--nice and neat. (A Hope Undaunted)
    (5) Sweet thunderation--deliver me from pretty men! (Love at Any Cost)
    (6) "I'll tell you what, Emma, nothing calms like cuddling a sweet, little--OH!"
    (A Whisper of Hope, Hope For The Holidays Historical Collection)
    (7) She heard it before she felt it. (A Heart Revealed)
    (8) So help me if I get caught tonight, Peggy Pankow's name is "Mud." (A Love
    Surrendered)
    (9) Merciful Providence . . . I smell a rat! (Dare to Love Again)
    (10) Sisters are overrated, she decided. (A Passion Most Pure)
    (11) Ka-boom! (Grace Like Rain, With This Kiss Historical Collection)
    (12) Patrick O'Connor stirred from a deep sleep at the feather touch of his
    wife's breath, warm against his neck. (A Passion Redeemed)

    Guess you can tell I love her books, however, I love those that have been written by other Seekers, as well - you just don't have room for me to list them all, lol!! Please keep writing those wonderful books for us blessed readers!!

    Please enter me in the drawing for the gift card - I can never have enough books, lol!!

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  86. Bonton, that's such a great list! Go you!!!! And Go Julie!!!!!

    Those first lines are epic. Thank you for taking the time to post them today!

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  87. An "A+" Perfect Example!

    The book is titled:

    "Cody the Coyote: The Coyote Who Wanted to be a Dog."

    First line:

    "Tired of being a coyote, Cody sat on the bluff and looked down at all the campers in the campground."

    Absolutely perfect and a Seeker* wrote this in 2012. Beat my post by years! : )

    *Sandra

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  88. Lyndee, what a great line! "the gears of a fine, Swiss watch..." Love it!

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  89. Janet, this was a great exercise! I looked at the opening lines in chapters I'd written, as well as the first line when the POV changed. First, I noticed many times the second line was, like you said, the stronger. Second, I noticed I tend to start a chapter or scene change with short sentences:
    • It couldn't be!
    • He hadn't said that, had he? Oh mercy, he had said that.
    • So there she was!
    • Why wouldn't he leave?

    Thank you. Going through some of my WIPs looking at the first sentences has been an eye-opener!

    Now to read comments and hopefully learn from others' first lines :-)

    Nancy C

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  90. Debby, that's exactly the way my phone behaved, but now I know what to do. To add or delete while writing the comment, you must hit Done each and every time before you can change anything. Once the comment is ready to post, hit done again and then publish. If you want to play, try answering this on your phone. :-)

    Janet

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  91. Valri, thanks for your lovely encouragement. Writers are by and large an insecure lot. :-)

    I'm having a great summer! How about you?

    Janet

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  92. Bonton, thank you for all the great examples from Julie's books! She has fabulous fans!

    Janet

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  93. Thanks Vince! And kudos to Sandra and her adorable story!

    Janet

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  94. Nancy C, short lines make great hooks! Thanks for sharing excellent examples from your writing! And for getting rid of anything that makes you yawn. Great job!

    Janet

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  95. Just a few Seeker chapter starters I've enjoyed:

    • Patience never had been Rachel's strong suit (Audra - Rough Road Home)
    • "My daddy was a policeman, too. A bad guy killed him." (Glynna - Look-Alike Lawman)
    • Skye froze, heart pounding, breath catching in her throat. (Sandra - Love's Refuge)
    • Lists. The screen was full of lists. (Tina - The Christmas Angel)
    • "Mother, please stop pacing. You're making me crazy." (Myra - Whisper Goodbye)

    Every one of those chapter openers made me wonder what was up :-)

    Nancy C

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  96. Janet, so far so good on my summer! I just became a grandma again 2 weeks ago and I'm spending 6 great weeks with the newborn! It's fantastic! Makenna is such a cutie and I never tire of holding her! Her big sister, Mae, is oh so "helpful" too! It's only hard being away from my hubby that long!

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  97. JANET, I love, Love, LOVE first lines, so this was sooooo fun to reread!!

    To me, first lines are CRITICAL to the story, and I love all of those mentioned above plus Tracey's mention of Ruthy's Prairie Promises lfrom the Homestead Brides. "State your business or get shot. Your choice."

    LOL ... sounds like Mary Connealy has been an influence here ... ;)

    Hugs,
    Julie

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  98. Oh my gosh, just read through the comments and got to Bonnie's with most of my first lines. Bonnie, you are something else, girlfriend -- thanks for being my biggest supporter, my sweet friend!

    Miss you!!

    Hugs,
    Julie

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  99. BTW Janet, that dessert pizza HAS BEEN ON MY MIND ALL DAY!!!

    And thanks for all those great hooks.

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  100. Julie, was hoping you'd stop by and see the great lines Bonton, aka Bonnie loved in your books. And I agree they're wonderful examples of lines that hook.

    Janet

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  101. Tina, I think that dessert pizza may be the biggest hook in this post!

    Janet

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  102. Am an avid reader.....not a writer, but always enjoy the posts at Seekerville!

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  103. Rick Riordan's juvie books always have great opening lines:

    “Look, I didn’t want to be a half-blood.
    If you’re reading this because you think you might be one, my advice is: close this book right now. Believe whatever lie your mom or dad told you about your birth, and try to lead a normal life.
    Being a half-blood is dangerous. It’s scary. Most if the time, it gets you killed in painful, nasty ways.” --The Lightning Thief

    “We have only a few hours, so listen carefully. If you’re hearing this story, you’re already in danger. Sadie and I may be your only chance.” --The Red Pyramid

    I'm going to go through the comments later tonight. =)

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  104. Haha...Debby, I wish I could say that the book in the photo was a classic, but no, it is simply a journal. I wanted a new profile picture after I got my hair cut short and thought it'd be fun to have one with a book. So I grab the first one I could find. I like to take notes while listening to sermons, and this is the journal I write them in.

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  105. What perfect tips. I love the opening lines. I am ready to join you for some goodies and tea !
    Deanne Patterson
    Cnnamongirl(at)aol(dot)com

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  106. Jackie S, we so appreciate our readers! Thanks for stopping in.

    Janet

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  107. Hi Artist Librarian. Whew those are scary lines! Thanks for sharing.

    Janet

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  108. Rhonda, love that you journal sermons! I talk to God partly through my journaling. Somehow that helps me focus.

    Janet

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  109. Deanne, thanks for sharing night time goodies! Seekerville loves food!

    Janet

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  110. Dessert pizza and a wonderful post to think about! As a reader I do think you know your stuff!!
    Toss me into the drawing please..

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  111. I needed this today! Thanks for the great examples and now I want to go home and make a dessert pizza! Stephanie

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  112. Ooh I love this post! Now I'll have to spend some time reading through first (and last) lines in books I love to see if those lines were part of my favoritism toward those novels...

    Great exercise, for whatever you write, review, edit, or read! Thanks Janet!

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  113. Excellent post, Janet. Well worth revisiting.
    Thank you for some thought provoking ideas, WITH examples.
    Those really help me!!! :)

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  114. Hi Deanna, you're in the drawing. Thanks for stopping by.

    Janet

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  115. Hi Stephanie, I love it when a post fits someone's needs.

    Janet

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  116. Hi Sarah,

    I'm guessing you'll find lots of lines that hook you in your favorite books.

    Thanks for stopping by!

    Janet

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  117. Hi KC,

    Glad examples help you. Some say they don't like examples/excerpts, but I think they help me get my points across.

    Janet

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  118. Valri, congrats on your precious grandbaby! You get the title of Grandma of the Year with those six weeks helping the new mom. Know those six weeks will fly by.

    Janet

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  119. Thanks for both the good examples and the ones that could be improved upon - it was a good exercise for me to flip things around in my mind (before I realized you were doing it one paragraph later) to create a more appealing hook. It reminded me of middle school composition, which I genuinely enjoyed.

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  120. Thank you for the great tips ! I have been enjoying reading everyone's comments .
    Dessert pizza and an informative post to thin about. Please enter me for the drawing.

    Deanne Patterson
    Cnnamongirl(at)aol(dot)com

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  121. These are great examples. Very informativepost, Janet.

    Jan

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  122. Hi Rachael,

    Before and after examples help me too! Thanks for stopping.

    Janet

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  123. Hi Deanne,

    The comments are always fun and informative. Thanks for sharing.

    Janet

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  124. Thanks Janet! Love the name by the way.

    Janet

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