Readers are a fickle lot. If your writing hasn’t grabbed their attention within a few sentences, its likely your story will be laid aside and another chosen in its place. There are a number of ways to entice a reader to continue with your words, but the most effective tool is the ‘hook’; a sentence that emotionally engages the reader. Obviously some of these opening sentences will be more applicable to certain writing styles than others; but are worth investigating none the less.
One of your characters can open with a question to bring immediacy and context directly into play. “What? You eat slimy slugs in your sandwiches?”
Short simple dialogue will have the reader question the story immediately, wondering what has just happened.
Dependent upon the style of your writing, you may open with a idiom. Slang and idioms are not normally accepted within formal styles of writing, but can give a deeper and richer meaning and texture to a sentence if used well. They also have the danger of being clinched, so care is required with their use. Examples of idioms which carry imagery which extends beyond simple words include “at loggerheads,”, “over the moon”, “vicious cycle”.
A characters view on the situation can be captured quickly with their exaggerated outlook, eg “A billion flies have defended on my face”.
This is perhaps the most utilized within the toolbox of hooks. Adjective and adverb rich, care needs to be taken not to overdo the setting and lose the reader inside it. Too much scenery or back story will send the reader packing. Use words and images in your opening setting which will convey the overall tone of your story, be it dark, whimsical or suspenseful. If you are using the setting as your opening, it can hint towards a characters mood or intent.
This opening works well for stories full of emotion. e.g., “I have a loving husband, a huge home with servants, an important job; but why do I feel like my life is falling apart?”
Onomatopoeia is defined as a word, or set of words, which imitates the natural sounds of a noun. Examples include “whispering pines”, “the slurp of the slushy”, “the last gulp of a coffee”. This stylistic tool allows the writer to vividly convey a scene quickly.
Another tool for a character to express something, or for the writer to engage the reader personally. “ Phew! If you thought it was hot in the desert, wait till you work in the bakery Matt does (or I do)…”
Writing an effective hook will pull your audience in but is not necessary to write first. As your story develops, you may discover the right hook to begin your story with and be able to mold your opening paragraph to include it. The hook should encapsulate what will be found within the story.