Name That Book: Can you hook an editor in one sentence?
By T. Lynn Adams
In an earlier blog, I mentioned an editor friend who said she was so busy she wanted to be hooked by the very first paragraph. Some writers may feel a bit overwhelmed, wondering if that is possible.
Not only is it possible, some of the greatest authors in the world have managed to hook their audience in the very first sentence! Check out these opening lines from some of the 100 best-selling novels for children and teens. If you were an editor and these opening words met your mind, would you keep reading? (Just for fun, see if you can identify the book.)
1. “Where’s Papa going with that ax?”
2. “I’d never given much thought to how I would die—though I’d had reason enough in the last few months—but even if I had, I would not have imagined it like this.”
3. “Buck did not read the newspapers, or he would have known that trouble was brewing…”
4. “Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.”
5. “It was a dark and stormy night.”
6. “First of all, let me get something straight: this is a JOURNAL, not a diary.”
7. “When the doorbell rings at three in the morning, it’s never good news.”
8. “The creature stared through the glass, its thin brown lips drawn back in a muted scream or a mocking smile—Jonathon couldn’t tell which.”
Okay, now that you know it is possible to grab someone’s attention in twenty words or less, go to your manuscript. Call up your very first paragraph—your very first sentence. Read them both…critically. Do they grab your attention--wrap their inked fingers around you and absolutely refuse to let go? If not, you may want to juice up your opener a bit (just in case your submission is read by my very busy editor friend).
After you have crafted a rattle-your-mind beginning, keep that energy flowing through your entire first page, then your entire first chapter, then…well, you get the idea. If you can keep that page-turning style going to the end of your book, you will have a sale.
P.S. If you identified all eight opening lines, I am your biggest fan! Answers: 1= Charlotte’s Web, by E. B. White; 2= Twilight, by Stephenie Meyer; 3= The Call of the Wild, by Jack London; 4= The Sorcerer’s Stone, by J.K. Rowling; 5= A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L’Engle (Isn’t it nice to attribute this line to something other than Snoopy leaning over his typewriter?); 6= Diary of a Wimpy Kid, by Jeff Kinney; 7= Stormbreaker, by Anthony Horowitz; 8= Tombs of Terror, by T. Lynn Adams (Alright, I admit it—line #8 did not make the top 100 list, but it did manage to catch an editor’s attention. If you knew it was from my book, I’ll autograph your copy!)