As writers, we must be great fishermen. Yes. Fisherman. In other words, we must “hook” our reader and convince them to keep reading our story. We do that by creating a great first line. Read the following first lines and see if they grab your attention:
“It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.” 1984, by George Orwell
“If you are interested in stories with happy endings, you would be better off reading some other book.”, The Bad Beginning: A Series of Unfortunate Events, by Lemony Snicket
“There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.” The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, by C. S. Lewis
“Not every 13-year-old girl is accused of murder, brought to trial, and found guilty.” The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi
“How five crows managed to lift a twenty-pound baby boy into the air was beyond Prue, but that was certainly the least of her worries.” Wildwood by Colin Meloy
“The Herdmans were absolutely the worst kids in the history of the world.” The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson
Writers use first lines for several reasons. Often, writers use the first line to introduce the character. Sometimes, first lines establish the setting, especially if the setting is crucial to the story. First lines are also used to put the reader right in the middle of the plot or problem of the story. Other times, writers use first lines to create a sense of mystery or confusion. Look at the first line above. The clocks were striking thirteen? Where in this world or some other world do they strike that hour? See? The first line hooked my interest and curiosity, convincing me to read more.
Read the following KIDS ARE WRITERS articles about “hooking” the reader:
Hooks, Lines, and Thinkers by Erik the Great
How To Hook Your Readers by Brian Reynolds
It’s time for a field trip. Go to a place where there are many books: library, bookstore, or a bookshelf in your own home. You may also do your research on the internet by searching: “best opening lines in children’s literature” or “perfect first lines in literature”.
Read the first lines of several books and ask yourself the following questions:
- Did the first line introduce the character, describe the setting, begin the plot, establish the problem, or did it create curiosity?
- Did the first line hook me? Did it make me want to read more?
- If so, why? If the book did not entice you, why not?
Now it’s your turn. Practice writing several first lines to a story. You don’t have to write an entire story now, although you may want to at some point. Today, we are just practicing first lines.
Write a first line for each of the following purposes: (and don’t forget to HOOK the reader)
- introduce a character
- describe the setting
- begin the plot (get right into the action)
- establish the problem
- create curiosity or mystery
In the comment section below, share your first name, age, state, and country.
Share one of the following items:
- Your favorite first line from a book. Include the first line, title, author, and why it “hooked” you, OR
- A first line YOU wrote. Include your first line and why you believe it will hook the reader.
Michelle Lynn Senters is the Founder and Director of KIDS ARE WRITERS. She spends her days working as a teacher and spends her evenings writing books for children and adults. You can learn more about Michelle HERE and at www.michellelynnsenters.com.