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I just finished reading a book titled ‘Hooked’ by Les Edgerton, and found it quite interesting. It’s given me a whole new outlook on writing and I thought I’d share some key points here. Hope it helps my fellow writers as much as it did me.

Agents and publishers agree: Improper story beginnings are the single biggest barrier to publication. Why? If a novel or short story has a bad beginning, then who will want to keep reading. It’s that simple. And, yet for the writer, it’s not always that easy to do. You need to hook your reader!
The same holds true for query letters, synopsis and every other piece of writing you do. If you grab ahold of your reader right from the first line, it would be difficult for them to put that story or letter down.
The key is to hook your reader with the first line and every line that follows, let it flow as if every single line is important enough to keep your reader wanting to read the next line, the next page, and the next chapter.
The ultimate goals of your opening scene include: 1. to introduce your story worthy problem. 2. To hook your reader. 3. To establish the rules of the story. 4. To forecast the ending of the story. If your story fails to any one of these, it will be faulty at best and unreadable at worst.

1. To Introduce Your Story Worthy Problem
This is the most important goal of all. This is the heart and soul of your story. If there’s no story worthy problem, then there’s no reason for your story to exist. This should be unraveled carefully throughout your story.

2. To Hook Your Reader
Not every single story has a hook, but it’s hard to find one that doesn’t. Anything that can draw your reader in to your story can serve as your hook. What strong hooks have is that they immediately plunge your protagonist into trouble, thus creating the desire to read on.

3. To Establish the Rules of the Story
You need to establish right from the beginning what type of story this is going to be. For example, you can’t start your story as sci-fi and then switch to comedy or romance in chapter four. Your reader won’t forgive you for this. You need to be consistent.

4. To Forecast the Ending of the Story
Beginnings often give a small hint at the ending of the story. As T.S. Eliot said, “In my beginning is my end.” When writers have difficulty ending their story, the best chance for a successful ending is to look at the beginning. For therein lies the answer to the ending. This will create an ending that feels complete to the reader.

Thanks for a very insightful read Les Edgerton! 🙂


16 Responses

  1. Pat, you saved my book with these advices.


  2. Hey Pat,
    Some great advice there and something I think I’ll look at quite seriously with my next few projects. I suppose its easy once you ahve the story to say this but getting that opening perfect is perhaps the hardest thing of all.

  3. Great advice Pat. Sounds like you got yourself a gem of a reference book!

    Thank you for sharing those very important key points.


  4. The opening is crucial. I would say though, that the hook doesn’t have to be a big brassy thing but it must keep the reader interested.

  5. I just wanted to thank you for the shout-out of Hooked. I really appreciate it and am very happy that it’s helping you a bit in your own writing journey. If you get a chance, I’d like to invite you to visit my own blog at http://www.lesedgertononwriting.blogspot.com/

    Blue skies,
    Les Edgerton

  6. Nice! This sounds similar to 8 things Paula B from The Writing Show podcast (which I listen to obsessively while driving) has to say about opening scenes when she does her “Slushpile Workshops”. She says an opening scene should:
    1) hook the reader
    2) introduce major characters, conflicts, and what they want
    3) introduce major themes
    4) set tone
    5) create tension & suspense
    6) foreshadow events
    7) introduce setting
    8) leave the reader wanting more

    I especially liked her last tip, as it’s actually kind of easy to forget! I wasn’t so sure about the “theme” one though…

  7. Great post, Pat! Those first pages and paragraphs even are the most important in getting someone to read on. Thanks for this!

  8. Thanks for sharing! Great Post.


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