Lori Ryan, author of Negotiation Tactics, has stopped by The Library today to talk with us about the importance of hooking readers. Enjoy this guest post as Lori tours her book. Leave a comment or ask a question--one commenter will win a $50 Amazon gift card.
I picked up Deathwatch from Dana Marton yesterday and the opening line reminded me of a very important lesson for authors to learn. Your opening line, or at least opening paragraph, needs to hook your readers in and compel them to continue reading. This is actually a lesson I’ve been working on as a writer. My first book, Legal Ease, didn’t have a very good hook so I recently published a new edition with a prologue. Here’s the first chapter of the prologue:
Kelly’s head was throbbing when she woke and she felt nauseated and confused. She tried to shake the foggy feeling in her head and the cotton feeling in her mouth. Panic set in when she realized her hands and feet were bound with thick layers of duct tape and she was in a room she didn’t recognize. Kelly felt as though a band was tightening over her chest, suffocating her and she struggled to breathe as waves of panic swept over her and bile burned at the base of her throat.
That paragraph is designed to draw my readers in, to get them to want to know what happens next and who took Kelly. Why she’s been bound and abandoned in a room she doesn’t recognize.
The first line in Dana’s Deathwatch? Kate Bridges thought attending her own funeral would be the hardest part.
Yup, Dana got me with that one! So, I went in search of some other great openers to inspire me. Here’s what I found: Jill Sanders’ Secret Guardian opens with: Ethan had never cut it this close on a job before. His face and arms were covered in black paint. The black shirt and pants he wore were one of his standard uniforms, one he’d been wearing for as long as he could remember. As he crouched down behind the small air conditioning unit next to the recently renovated house, he swore he’d never cut it that close again.
Or check out Kaylea Cross’s opening to Ignited: The noise of the growing mob outside swelled louder. A muted roar made by hundreds of angry voices chanting one of the only Urdu phrases he knew. Death to America.
Sometimes a first line just tells me this is the kind of humor I might like in a book and the kind of character I can connect with. Always on My Mind by Jill Shalvis starts that way for me: Saying she went to the annual Firefighter’s Charity Breakfast for pancakes was like saying she watched baseball for the game – when everyone knew that you watched baseball for the guy in tight uniform pants.
You get the idea. Go back and look through your manuscripts and find that hook. Reel in your readers. Make your first paragraph count! I promise, it’s worth every bit of the effort.
Lori has had a number of careers before embarking on her newest adventure of writing novels. After graduating from the University of Connecticut School of Law, she practiced law for three years, working primarily in the areas of utilities law and intellectual property litigation.
More recently, Lori owned and operated a dog training business in Austin, Texas, where she specialized in aggression and became an expert in the field of dog bite analysis. Lori sold her dog training business in 2013 and is now a full time writer and mother of two.
Lori still lives in Austin with her husband -- who is endlessly supportive of her changing career paths -- and her two children, one cat, and three dogs.
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After the crushing heartache of losing her husband at a harshly young age, Jennie Evans had finally found a place to call home. She had a job she loved and new friends to support her. With the exception of having to continuously fight off the feelings she had for Chad Thompson, she was happy again. As happy as she could be anyway. When Jennie’s well-meaning friends meddle in her life, they send her world into a tailspin once again. Soon, she’s on the run from some very dangerous people with the one man she doesn’t want to be with.
Chad Thompson has loved Jennie from afar for the last year, but he’s maintained control. Jennie’s made it clear she wants nothing to do with him and he won’t cross the line she’s drawn in the sand. Until she asks him to. And, when that happens, their world is turned upside down. Chad’s left scrambling to keep Jennie safe as he tries to right their world again. Unfortunately, Chad has to accept the fact that his heart is likely to be crushed in the process and nothing will ever be the same again.