When I think of memorable first lines, this one from Deeanne’s Gist’s book, The Measure of a Lady comes to mind. Catchy, isn’t it? I knew I was in for a good time from the get go.
“Don’t die, little girl.”
I fell in love with Candace’s E.R. doctor hero when I read those four words. No matter what else Logan Caldwell—aka Dr. McSnarly—is, he has a heart and is a sympathetic character from the start.
I attended a fiction-writing workshop taught by Angela Bell at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference in 2008. At one point, she had workshop participants jot down their first lines on slips of paper with no names given. She read them off, asking us to raise our hands when she shared a hook that would make us want to keep reading. We clearly saw when someone had penned a good one by the number of hands that went up.
“The body bag moved.”
Whoa! When Angela read that one, a sea of hands shot in the air. She gave a sheepish grin and admitted that the awesome hook was hers. Her excellent example showed us how the “wow” factor can reel in a reader.
Opening hooks, be they at the start of a book, chapter, or scene, are important, but so are chapter and scene their endings. My critique partner Jody Hedlund calls the hooks at the end of scenes and chapters Read-on Prompts or ROPs. She’s got some great ones in her debut novel, The Preacher’s Bride. My other critique partner, Anne Barton, amazes me with those she comes up with in her stories. I’ve been watching and learning from their great examples.
Here’s a chapter ending from my story. The heroine’s friend is speaking to her about the hero.
“Not to spoil your morning, but Miles is on his way over, and he looks none too happy.”
I’d like to share a few examples from published books, but taken out of context an ROP can lose some of its effect. Plus, they could serve as spoilers, and I wouldn’t want to lessen a reader’s enjoyment.
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I wanna know . . .
Do you have a first line you’d like to share?
What is a first line that pulled you into a story?
What do you think gives a first line that wow factor?