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How to Hook a Reader
I should note that this article will be primarily concerning YA fiction, as that is what I know most about. You may notice that some of these openings use elements that I cautioned against in an earlier article. Told ‘ya there were bountiful exceptions to writing “rules.”
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis
“There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.”
This one is just awesome. I adore some subtle humor in a book, and it’s a great way to start out if you’re witty enough. This short and amusing opening line tells us a lot about the character in a very short time. His name also gives an indication that he is not from the land of Narnia, but is probably from England, if this book is to be similar to the ones prior to it in the series. We know something about his age in t
So I would add another item to this list: Don't start out with an action-packed scene full of interactions and such without at least letting the reader know what on earth is going on. You really don't want to confuse the reader so much that they just give up.
"The sound of machine-gun fire shattered the silence, blood-curdling screams rending the air before being cut off with dying gurgles. A weak hand reached out, seeking, searching... and shut of the alarm clock. Katy opened her eyes only enough to glare at the evil machine before sitting up. Every morning she swore she was going to change that alarm. Every morning she swore she was going to kill her annoying little brother for setting it in the first place. Four months and she hadn't managed it yet. She smothered a yawn and threw off the blankets. Eh, maybe tomorrow."
Those scenarios would not count as "zany" because they are still believable within the context of the story. “Zany” would be if a fantasy character is battling a dragon and then suddenly aliens land and then vampires form out of fairly dust. The only way something like that would work would be if the premise of the novel were something like Inkheart, where characters from many books come alive and interact.
As I said, I have no problem with the fantasy genre, I just have a problem with throwing in crazy stuff that doesn’t really make sense or have a purpose just to get readers’ attention.
This video explains it well: www.youtube.com/watch?v=RR64Wx…
The puddle shattered, and I felt myself sink to the cold ground, my eyes fixed on the red water, the bloody dirt.
The shadows, hiding my calico pelt and revealing the gleaming eyes of the cats surrounding me, writhed as if trying to wake themselves from a morbid dream. A dream I, however, could not awake.
Rainstrikes held the gaze of the white shecat. In truth, she had bled little, but the blood mixed with water, and then the mixture stained her fur so thoroughly at first glance I almost thought she was brown-furred.
Lastwhite lay sprawled, her eye and stomach weeping blood and entrails. I knew I was going to be sick.'
Is this a good beginning?
but I hope you won't mind if I say something about it?
The first sentence: "The moon was stained in blood"...
I love metaphors, but before reading the second sentence I thought,
that it surely isn't one. (Sry, my vocabulary is very limited, I fear I might
not be able to express what I mean...)
But well, the first sentence certainly got me interested.
The next sentences give you a bit of information, but in my opinion not too much.
But then you suddenly change from "I" to "she"... a bit too fast for me.
I once had a writer I know read what I have written down of my story so far,
somewhere in the storytelling I change the style from "I" to "she/he", there's an
explanation for it in my story, but you will come to realize that it still confuses readers.
And only writing the first couple of sentences in the cat's view doesn't really make sense
(only my opinion, please don't take it personally). It would sound so much more round
if you just wrote it down in one style.
I know the problem with that: You want to share your characters thoughts with the reader
and have him form a bound with the ones ypu're writing about.
But trust me, you can surely achieve that in another way.
Ow... again, sorry... I should refrain from writing "long" texts in english...
Oh goodness, does it sound like two styles? I wrote the whole thing in "I" actually; the narrator (Skypaw) is supposed to be looking at the scene with Rainstrikes and Lastwhite from the sidelines. I though it was clear, but maybe by posting just the prologue you can't tell that? I'll have to look at the story again under that angle.
Also, since I'm not certain from just reading your reply, can one tell that the 'moon stained in blood' was describing the moon's reflection in a bloody puddle?
But thank you so much! Your comment is really helpful. And I don't think the long text is a problem. X3
And concernig your questions, I didn't notice that there was supposed to be another character
in this scene, it is certainly a bit confusing. But I did notice, that the blood stained moon
is just a reflection. That became pretty clear by reading the second sentence.
How about the chasing scene at the beginning of quite a few books. More so with movies.
We start with a girl on horseback being chased by hooded figures, and she has a relic or baby in her hands. She gets captured/killed and the artifact/baby goes missing.
And then the story actually starts. Those used to BUG me as a kid.
*Sarcastic mode* Yeah, because insulting people who do write this stuff by telling them that they have "problems" is a sure guarantee way to get them to not write the kind of openings that you don't like.
I apologize if I offended you, that was in no way my intention. Perhaps I could have expressed my ideas in a more subtle manner.
However, I still hold my stance that it is not creative to merely be outlandish and zany, I do not personally think it takes much talent or knowledge to do that.
But I'm trying not to just spout my opinions about things I don't like. I don't LIKE western romance novels, but that doesn't mean I don't think there are quality well-written western romance novels. On the other hand, I LIKE action-adventure, but that doesn’t mean I don’t think people are sometimes cliché and lacking in depth when they write in that genre. I'm not trying to get people to write things I like, I'm trying to get people to write whatever they write in a quality original manner.
To be honest, outside of simple fanfiction, I'm not much of a guru for the writing medium, so I can't give much of a critique of your work. However, I think can say this in response;
If the problem with story openings is the lacking of creativity or originality, then I think the title "Top 10 Worst Story Openings" is not the best title for this topic. It's pretty misleading, to be honest, especially with your opinion on the 'Waking up from a dream' opening has a link to a different blog that talks about this opening as well, explaining that it's not the opening itself that's the problem, but the fact that it's overused to the detriment of other options.
For me, I usually take these kinds of lists with a grain of salt, since it's just the writer's opinion. But if the point of it is to get people to think of different ways to start a story, then using words like "worst" for your title isn't the proper term, because it gives the implication that the openings are bad in and of themselves. Instead, using words like "cliché" or "overused" or "uninspired" would probably work better to get your point across. If you want my opinion, I think encouraging people to come up with different ideas would work much better than to tell them that "This is bad, don't do it."
That's just my opinion, though.