A novel’s opening has to hook the reader to keep on reading.
Most readers don’t realize the psychological impact of what the publishing industry calls ‘The Hook’.
But successful writers do.
It’s well known that the three selling points of a novel are cover, jacket blurb, and opening lines. The first sentences or, at most, the first few paragraphs, are critical.
The book’s cover and blurb are an art of their own, but how do you craft opening lines to cram in such a short space?
You need to steal the formula that successful investigators have known for centuries.
All investigations use this nucleus and that’s exactly what your reader will be wondering about your story. You need to set the hook by introducing them to who’s the main character (protagonist), when and where it takes place (setting) and have them wondering what’s going to happen (plot and resolution) and why it’s taking place (central story question). That’s a lot to ask from so little words.
But if you don’t set the hook immediately, your reader will be off the line and looking for fresh bait.
So you need to spend a lot of time sharpening your hook.
Here’s the opening from my novel No Witnesses To Nothing. See how the W-5 formula works:
Monday, April 30th, 2012 5:52 am
Southern West Coast
British Columbia, Canada
Sergeant Sharlene Bate of I-HIT, the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team, shifted foot to foot in a Vancouver Starbucks, elbow to elbow in the morning-rush lineup, awaiting her Grande, late for a briefing, and texting a scold to her daughter – oblivious to effects creeping out from the Gulf Islands death scene; effects causing grave repercussions for Bate’s soul.
Who. What. When. Where. Why.