3 Methods to Create The Most Important Sentence in Your Fiction Novel - #WriteTip

June 3, 2015

So, which sentence is the most important in a novel? Well, I bet most writers would say that it's the first line, and I happen to agree. 


I was at a bookstore recently, and when I picked up a book it was because of the "eye-catching" cover, and then I skimmed the back jacket copy. Next, I flipped to the front page. The first line was awesome and so was the first paragraph, so I bought the book. While we were there, my daughter and I had fun opening up various novels and reading the first sentence out loud. 

For me personally, if the first page has a great "hook" I will buy the book 9 out of 10 times. And I always read Amazon's "Look Inside" feature to inspect the first  sentence and page of any novel before I buy it. Or I'll search online for an excerpt to read. I purchase 99% of my books from Amazon, but I if I can't read the first few pages, I won't buy it. And if the first sentence and page don't "hook" me, I won't buy.

I spend more time revising the first sentence than any other line in my manuscripts. I like my opening lines to have a compelling "hook" that should naturally make the reader want to know more. They all have to "pop" in some way or create curiosity.

Writing a great beginning can be complicated and frustrating. Not to mention all the "so-called" rules a writer must follow. First, you'll need to "hook" the reader from page one and reel them into your narrative. Second, you must have an original and compelling opening sentence. And third, you must lure your reader into the storyline so quickly and cleverly that they are already on page twenty by the time before they realize it. 

What will compel a reader to put down your book after reading the first page?

Not opening with a strong enough first sentence or that much-needed “hook” to reel the reader into your world within the first two to three paragraphs. The first page is essential and each should be meticulously constructed to entice the reader into needing to find out more. Readers may forgive a less than stellar first sentence; however, the first paragraph should lure them into the narrative. Don’t bore the reader with too many tedious details, long paragraphs of inner-monologue, pages of backstory, or lengthy description.

Here are some examples of enticing first sentences that will “hook” the reader: 

Example 1
My uncle was murdered on Saturday, and I inherited his so-called haunted house.

Example 2
The shrill sound of the phone ringing in the middle of the night is never good sign.

Example 3
It figured that the first thing Marilyn won in her life was a prize she did not even want.

Example 4
As a groundskeeper of Pleasant Hills Cemetery, I often witness some very peculiar things.

Do any of these examples spark your own creative muse?

In each case, something is happening now, and the reader is compelled to keep reading to find out what’s going on and what’s going to happen next. The information with which many beginner writers tend to fill their opening pages (descriptions of place, character or, worst of all, too much backstory) can wait until the reader is firmly "hooked."

Remember, the opener needs to be fresh, original, with a great hook in the first line. Even the first paragraph. Even more than that, the first page. Each one is extremely critical and should be crafted to bait the reader into needing to find out more.


Here are the first lines to all of my novels:

BEAUTIFULLY BROKEN (book 1):
For as long as I could remember, I'd heard whispers in the shadows.

SHATTERED SILENCE (book 2):
I had always been a magnet for the strange and unusual--and socially disastrous--at my birthday parties.

MOONLIGHT MAYHEM (book 3):
My body relaxed for the first time in weeks without the fear of demon blood infecting me with Darkness.

RECKLESS REVENGE (book 4):
The worst part about being a demon hunter was the waiting.
 
IMMORTAL ECLIPSE (adult stand-alone):

At the next ominous thump, I finger the handle of the Glock 19 under my pillow.

LOST IN STARLIGHT (Volume One):
I don't usually stalk boys, but if I hadn't been spying on Hayden Lancaster, I never would've seen the mind-blowing fork-bending incident.

UNDER SUNLESS SKIES (Volume 2):
My dad just teleported into our living room.

SMASH INTO YOU (not my best opening sentence):
Walking across campus alone at night was just plain dumb...and potentially dangerous.
Post the first sentence of your novel or current WIP in the comments and get some feedback on it, or just show off your amazing writing skills! And/or comment with the first line from your favorite book.

Tag you're it! 


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