“Imagine for a moment that one of your favorite female Bible characters were to somehow travel through time to the modern day. What would Esther, or Ruth, or Mary Magdalene think as they stared, amazed, at our lives?” (opening of Chapter 1 of The Life Ready Woman: Thinking in a Do-It-All World by Shaunti Feldhahn and Robert Lewis)
“It was a scary year when I sat down to write this. The toughest I’d been through by far. My place in the world never seemed so uncertain.” (opening of the Introduction of My Life A.S. Is: An Inside Look at Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome by Benjamin Collier)
“This is the story of a family living on a farm that once belonged to my grandparents. It is about the individuals, the personalities and the ties that bind us to each other, in love and in faith, within a community of extended family, neighbours and friends.” (opening of Chapter 1 of Once Upon a Sandbox by Carolyn Wilker)
“‘Do you think Mum will ever come back, Mr. White?’
“Mr. White took his time before answering. He leaned back against the soft leather of his Rolls Royce and closed his eyes. While she waited for his answer, Chloe Murray stared at Wahmurra’s convict-built church with its faded Australian flag fluttering in the breeze.” (opening of Chapter 1 of The Convict’s Thumbprint by Beverley Boissery)
“Forever and ever. That’s what she’d promised.
“And it hadn’t been years, or even months, since Starla had so blithely spoken those vows. It had been exactly fifteen days!
“She’d promised she would never leave him again. And she had kept her promise—for fifteen days!” (opening of Starla by Dorene Meyer)
“Squinting against the bright grow lights, Kate Adams slipped into her fruit cellar in the back corner of her basement and shut the door. She couldn’t risk anyone discovering her little greenhouse. Enough people had already died.” (opening of Desperate Measures by Sandra Orchard)
WHAT MAKES A GOOD OPENING?
Above are the openings of the six books, three nonfiction and three fiction, I am actively reading. Yes . . . yes, I am that reader.
If you didn’t know before, you now know that I have eclectic interests and enjoy flitting from one thing to the next, from one book to the next. In fact, on Father’s Day, while sitting with my hubby, who was watching Star Trek: The Motion Picture and The Wrath of Khan, I read for hours. It was great. (I do like sci-fi, but these aren’t two of my favourites.)
This month we are talking about openings and endings. (Hopefully, someone else covers endings.)
Look back over the openings I’ve shared. Which draw you in? From the invitation to welcome a Bible character to the 21st century to discovering why it was a scary year for the author to learning about this particular family’s life on the farm. From discovering what happened to Chloe’s mom to why Starla left to what a secret greenhouse and death have to do with each another.
We’re all familiar with the term “hook,” but different things hook different readers. We, as writers, can’t appeal to everyone.
It’s quite possible that those with no interest in the Bible won’t be interested in speculating on what a woman from Bible times would think of life today. Even so, the title, The Life Ready Woman, may cause them to read on to learn more. But catchy titles is a topic for another day.
On the flipside, those who aren’t personally acquainted with someone who has autism or Asperger’s may not be drawn in by the title of Benjamin Collier’s book, but those opening lines . . . Wow! They are enough to make you want to read more.
Who will be drawn into Once Upon a Sandbox? Those who grew up on a farm may feel an instant connection as may those who know the author and want to learn more about Carolyn Wilker and her family. After all, memoir and personal essays appeal to those who can connect in some way.
And speaking of connections . . .
Much fiction is about making connections with your readers. In my opinion, well-written fiction reaches out and grabs the reader by the throat. My favourite stories are those that I’m reluctant to put down. And because I’m relationship-driven in life, I’m character-driven with regard to the novels I read. I must feel strongly about at least one character. If they become real to me, I simply have to know what happens to them.
What happened to Chloe’s mum? Will she ever come back?
Since I’ve read the other books in Dorene Meyer’s “The Group” series, I’m revisiting characters I already have a connection with. I want to know why Starla left again. How could she?
Desperate Measures is the final book in Sandra Orchard’s “Port Aster Secrets” series. I can’t wait to find out what happens to Kate and her project and a certain police officer.
All of these authors have posed questions in my mind, questions I must read further to answer. Keep your reader asking questions, and you’ll keep them turning pages. They will, indeed, be hooked.
What are you reading this summer?
Steph Beth Nickel is the coauthor of Paralympian Deborah L. Willows’ memoir, Living Beyond My Circumstances, published by Castle Quay Books. To their delight, LBMC won in the Life Stories category of The Word Awards 2015. Among other things, Steph is a freelance writer and editor. You can connect with her at email@example.com … on her Facebook author page … or on Twitter (Photo Credit: Stephen Woo)