Looking for the good hook by Karen Vaughan

Gone are the days where IT WAS A DARK AND STORMY NIGHT will cut it as an opening line. It is so cliched and and hackneyed that I would sooner put a book back on the shelf than read it.

How about death was standing on the doorstep. It would not ask permission to enter. It would barge right in and take anything or anyone standing in it’s path. (Note to self to use this one). This line would reel me in to find out what poor sucker was going to buy the farm.

That is the secret to a great opening line. Grab the reader and make them want more.

Perhaps if you are writing something less macabre, describing a piece of beautiful scenery will set the tone for the story you are writing. Maybe something witty if it is of a more comic bent. 

I started DAYTONA DEAD with the following:

The moon was high and a thousand stars appeared in the Florida sky. The sunset had been glorious, a flaming orange glow with pink undertones.


 Lou had taken up photography as a hobby since moving to the Daytona Beach area. Lou, a Canadian, had been lured to the area by a guy on the Dudes seeking Dudes website. Having broken up with his long time love, Richard, he had been itching to leave Toronto behind, along with a broken heart and ten years of bad memories. His marriage to Laura had died on Speaker’s Corner and it was time to leave the crap and the cold behind, in favour of a warmer climate and palm trees.  Ironically, Laura, the ex, had written him a glowing letter of reference for his work visa. He had applied via an online job search engine, and told his internet paramour he was heading to Florida to make a go of his career and a new life south of the Mason Dixon Line.

So today after putting in an eight hour shift, he went home and grabbed a shower and changed into beach shorts and a clean T-shirt sporting the slogan Just Grill Me. He had invested in a Digital SLR for taking some great landscape shots to post on Face book. He found that he loved photography and if his life as a chef sputtered, now he had a back-up plan. 

The scene looked to be pastoral and serene describing the sunset and something harmless as someone snapping photos.  Does it make the reader want to go and find out more? –Okay as the writer for this I really hope someone will.

In other stories I go for the funny like in my Gus the dog chronicles:

Gus’s Life —A dogs eye view of his world.


Okay here are the bare facts. The ugly truth; I am a dog! I guess it could have been worse; I could have been born a cat. Now there’s a bad attitude and a waste of fur if ever I saw one. With dogs, you always know where you stand. Cats have a hidden agenda. Always appear like they couldn’t care less. Let me tell you this people! IT’S A FREAKIN’ BIG LIE!!!!!!!!!! CATS DO CARE!!! IF IT’S NOT ALL ABOUT THEM, YOU PAY FOR IT BIG TIME!

My whole point is the hook needs to be strong in order to be effective enough to keep the readers attention. Get them in there and something tasty to latch onto like a great guitar riff.in a rock song or the chorus you will keep singing long after the song is over.

People remember lines like. IT WAS THE BEST OF TIMES, IT WAS THE WORST OF TIMES. It’s the classic opener to A TALE OF TWO CITIES.  Dickens makes the reader want to go and find out why.

Lincolns GETTYSBURG ADDRESS started out with FOUR SCORE AND TWENTY YEARS AGO. It sounds more interesting than EIGHTY YEARS AGO.

So I challenge you as writers to find the hook and get the fish on the line.


2 thoughts on “Looking for the good hook by Karen Vaughan

  1. Pingback: Looking for the good hook by Karen Vaughan | J.D. Holiday

  2. Agreed. The opening line can make or break the deal. Don’t know why the opening line of an old fifties rock and roll song by Lloyd Price just popped into my mind. “The night was clear and the moon was yellow and the leaves came tumbling down.” Now I think about it, that wasn’t a bad opening line.

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