Never start your story with a dream or an alarm clock buzzing; don’t start with dialogue or an infodump. Yeah, yeah…you’ve heard all the ways you shouldn’t begin a book.
Personally, I think rules are made to be broken. (>‿◠)✌
My first book began with a dream, although the dream turned out to be real. I started the second with dialogue, and that conversation doubled as the ending since it was a time travel story. And my current book starts with an infodump in the form of a newspaper column about the Triangle shirtwaist fire. ʕʘₒʘʔ
But you should never do what I do, since my books don’t sell. (ﾉД｀ﾟ)ﾟ｡
So how should you start a book? With a hook, of course! And these days it has to be freaking awesome, considering the competition from millions of other self-published writers out there now.
The first chapter has to draw the reader into the story and make it impossible to stop reading, but really you need to suck them in from the very first SENTENCE.
Back in the good old days of WriteOn, there was a thread where two faux agents would read the first 600 words of your book and give you suggestions for improvement, operating on the premise that a professional agent usually stops reading at about six hundred words. Fact is, most readers today won’t give you even that much. (╥︣﹏᷅╥)
You’ve got to reel them in from the first sentence, so here are some of the most famous first lines in history. Okay, I honestly didn’t like every single book listed here, (yes, Bell Jar and Finnegans Wake, I’m looking at you), but the first lines certainly kept me reading. Maybe they’ll inspire your own hook. Good luck with your writing! (੭*ˊᵕˋ)੭* ̀ˋ
▪ When I was fourteen my family moved into a burning house. – Stations of the Angels, Raymond St. Elmo
▪ I lost an arm on my last trip home. – Kindred, Octavia Butler
▪ I am an invisible man. – Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison
▪ I’m pretty much fucked. – The Martian, Andy Weir
▪ A screaming comes across the sky. – Gravity’s Rainbow, Thomas Pynchon
▪ It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. – 1984, George Orwell
▪ It was a pleasure to burn. – Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury
▪ They shoot the white girl first. – Paradise, Toni Morrison
▪ I write this sitting in the kitchen sink. – I Capture the Castle, Dodie Smith
▪ All children, except one, grow up. – Peter Pan, J. M. Barrie
▪ They murdered him. – The Chocolate War, Robert Cormier
▪ If you’re going to read this, don’t bother. – Choke, Chuck Palahniuk
▪ In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. – Genesis
▪ It was the day my grandmother exploded. – The Crow Road, Iain M. Banks
▪ Ships at a distance have every man’s wish on board. – Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston
▪ Every summer Lin Kong returned to Goose Village to divorce his wife, Shuyu. – Waiting, Ha Jin
▪ The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there. – The Go-Between, L. P. Hartley
▪ This is my favorite book in all the world, though I have never read it. – The Princess Bride, William Goldman
▪ Ten days after the war ended, my sister Laura drove a car off a bridge. – The Blind Assassin, Margaret Atwood
▪ It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife. – Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
▪ Someone must have been telling lies about Josef K, for he had done nothing wrong but one morning he was arrested. – The Trial, Franz Kafka
▪ It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn’t know what I was doing in New York. – The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath
▪ “Where’s Papa going with that ax?” said Fern to her mother as they were setting the table for breakfast. – Charlotte’s Web, E. B. White
▪ As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into an enormous insect. – The Metamorphosis, Franz Kafka
▪ Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice. – 100 Years of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez
▪ riverrun, past Eve and Adam’s, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle and Environs. – Finnegans Wake, James Joyce
▪ I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day in January of 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of 1974 – Middlesex, Jeffrey Eugenides
▪ I am doomed to remember a boy with a wrecked voice – not because of his voice, or because he was the smallest person I ever knew, or even because he was the instrument of my mother’s death, but because he is the reason I believe in God; I am a Christian because of Owen Meany. – A Prayer for Owen Meany, John Irving
▪ On the morning the last Lisbon daughter took her turn at suicide–it was Mary this time, and sleeping pills–the two paramedics arrived at the house knowing exactly where the knife drawer was, and the gas oven, and the beam in the basement from which it was possible to tie a rope. – The Virgin Suicides, Jeffrey Eugenides
▪ Once upon a time, in a far-off land, I was kidnapped by a gang of fearless yet terrified young men with so much impossible hope beating inside their bodies it burned their very skin and strengthened their will right through their bones. – An Untamed State, Roxane Gay
OMP Admin Note: Akje Majdanek is a writer and OMP Network member. Akje is a guest blogger for the One Million Project website whose creativity is evidenced in her work. Akje’s books–Der Reiter and Adeline–are available on Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Akje_Majdanek/e/B00UZSTW74
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