The Opening Hook Reply

The Presbyterian Writers Guild is sponsoring an Opening Hook contest. We are seeking opening hooks that address real-life issues that people confront, not unlike what Jesus did in his parables.

Whether you are at an airport bookstore, browsing the Amazon website, at a yard sale, or thumbing through a book at a friend’s house, what is it that causes you to pause and consider taking the time to read a particular book? If you send your best efforts to an agent or editor, why will that person take a second glance at your work? Unless you are famous or infamous, the most likely answer is what they see in the opening pages. For busy people, you often have an opening paragraph or two to HOOK the reader.

Consider what your opening hook needs to accomplish in order to attract a person to continue reading.

First, it must establish the tone and setting of the book.

Some people like reading 18th-century novels and others don’t.

Some people like the mysterious and the frightening and others prefer history or romance.

The beginning should be a vivid invitation that entices us to commit several hours to read.

Second, people are attracted to a new perspective, the unexpected, or the humorous.

Readers want to be introduced to something fresh, but they don’t want to be fooled into thinking they are reading a mystery and it turns out to be a sci-fi fantasy.

The opening lines should be consistent with the core nature of the book.

Third, a reader should be able to grasp at least the basic quest that your novel is answering.

What is the human yearning that the story seeks to address?

The idea for the story that your hook proposes may deal with an ethical quandary, prejudice, what makes life meaningful, or how humans respond to the challenges of living in a church community. You may only have the germ an idea, but you can capture the essence of the story in a few sentences. Whether you ever write the story or not, our hope is that your first few lines may cause people to urge you to continue because they want to read it.

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