The first page of the novel: it’s arguably the most important part of the book. This is the part that will tell the reader whether they should read on. So what is it that an author can do to hook the reader fast and hard? The answer to this question is something I spend a lot of time studying because I think it’s so important.
Here are some suggestions I’ve picked up on:
Have Something at Stake
Give the reader a reason to care what happens to the character and they’ll keep reading. This is why so many stories begin with a mother trying to protect her child, or a woman in distress, or the end of the world approaching. It’s an emotional tug on the heartstrings.
Create Sexual Tension
If you are writing a romance, try to create the attraction between the characters immediately. I know this personally works for me. If the hero is hot and the heroine can’t help but notice it (especially if there’s a reason she shouldn’t), I have to keep reading.
Engage the Reader’s Curiosity
Make the reader need to know what comes next. You do this by placing questions in your story, whether literal or not. Make the reader ask, “What will happen next?” or “How will she get out of this mess?”
Choose Your Words Carefully
A single word can completely change a reader’s view of a scene. Words are powerful, and we must take care with them. I hadn’t given this much thought until I attended a one day mini-conference with agent Kristin Nelson. She commented on a few story beginnings, and noted one where the author used an analogy that she didn’t feel was appropriate for the circumstances. This alone was enough to make her stop reading the piece.
Have you ever picked up a book to browse through it and ended up being sucked into the story in those first few pages? What did it for you?
If you’re looking for a good workshop on the subject, check out “A Guide to Great Beginnings” by Leslie Wainger, a workshop given during RWA’s 2010 Conference.