Monday, July 26, 2010

Hook 'Em Quick, Keep 'Em Reading!

What hooks the reader? What first sentence—or first paragraph—pulls the reader into the book? Now that e-books have, for many, replaced brick-and-mortar bookstores, authors are still required to hook the editor or agent to offer a contract for the manuscript.


This train of thought began last week when Darling 2 and I were shopping for paperbacks in one of our favorite Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex bookstore chains. Of course, we always hit the clearance section first, then stop to check the shelves for our favorites writers or a new author to try. As we do this, we check the first page—especially the first paragraph to see if the writing measures up to our quirky standards.

This set me thinking about the hook needed to sell a book—to the editor and to the bookstore customer. Here are some I searched out of my own collection to give you a look at some hooks that I believe capture the reader’s interest immediately, including the author who wrote the words and book in which they appear.

There are some men who enter a woman’s life and screw it up forever.” Janet Evanovich in the Stephanie Plum launch novel, ONE FOR THE MONEY

It had been months since I’d needed rescuing from anything—no dragons, hideous monsters from hell, evil wizards, not even a really bad blind date.” Shanna Swendson in DON’T HEX WITH TEXAS.

There’s nothing like a woman’s scream to bring a man bolt upright in bed.” J.A. Jance in INJUSTICE FOR ALL.

“Belle Cantrell felt guilty about killing her husband, and she hated that—feeling guilty that is.” Loraine Despres in THE BAD BEHAVIOR OF BELLE CANTRELL

Greetings from the Big Lemon, formerly known as the City Of Brotherly Love.” Gillian Roberts in IN THE DEAD OF SUMMER

Yesterday, Carl Hades had been shot at by a man wearing a black thong and a pink silk nightie.” Christie Craig in WEDDINGS CAN BE MURDER.

If she’d had a foot fetish, Anna would have been an extremely happy woman.” Nevada Barr in FIRESTORM

At a quarter after ten on the last Wednesday in May, I put a beautiful woman in a taxi and watched her ride out of my life, or at least out of my neighborhood.” Lawrence Block in THE CAT BURGLAR WHO THOUGHT HE WAS BOGART

Katie Callahan needed a man, but Hell would be renting ice skates and serving bubble-gum flavored snow cones before she chose one of the three specimens presently being offered to her.” Christie Craig in DIVORCED, DESPERATE AND DECEIVED and one of my favorite opening lines.

What do you mean, there’s no law against it?” Bill Crider in CURSED TO DEATH

Sonofabitch! The bastards are burying me!” Caroline Clemmons in THE MOST UNSUITABLE HUSBAND. Yeah, I cheated and included one of my own works. Hey, it is my blog!

Personally, I like authors who paint beautiful word pictures to set the mood, but our instant-gratification society no longer tolerates a slow opening. We're always on the run, always in a hurry. We demand that a book suck us into the story’s action immediately and send us on a fast-paced ride to the finish.

Do you judge a book by the first line/first paragraph before you buy it? Do you rely on the back blurb?

1 comment:

Vicki said...

I usually rely on the back blurb. I can't remember the last time I opened up a book before buying it. Perhaps I should make it more of a habit...?