The Importance of an Opening Line

Usually you can tell if you’re going to like a book or not by the first line of the story. The first line is called the “hook” and–if done correctly–will draw the reader in to read more. A good hook creates intrigue and causes the reader to think. For example:

Rain fell that night, a fine, whispering rain.” — Cornelia Funke, Inkheart

In a hole in the ground there lived a Hobbit.” — J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.” –C. S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

What happened that night? What’s a Hobbit? Who is this boy? In the very first line, you are already curious of what’s about to happen next. A good writer will draw you into the plot with a hint of what’s yet to come.

The hook should be related to the plotline, and–more specifically–the plot of the chapter. It doesn’t have to be short, though it needn’t be several lines long, either. Many popular books have entire paragraphs as their hooks, while some have only a few words. The hook in Moby-Dick is only three words long.

In the high fantasy I’m writing, I went for a line that placed a descriptive picture in the reader’s head–a picture that isn’t pleasant–to allude to the misery ahead. I found it appropriate for a story that edges towards dark fantasy elements and rarely sees a speck of light. “The room itself was frightening, filled with half-melted candles and eerie shadows that stretched along cracked walls.” My line echoes the grim atmosphere of not just the room, but another unknown source. The following paragraph goes on to talk about a dying man who has left two children behind.

Sometimes people keep reading even if the hook didn’t grab their attention, because the summary on the back cover was so enticing. Yet not everyone works that way. I often put down books whose opening lines didn’t compel me. Is that fair? Probably not, but sometimes I only have a few seconds to spare while browsing and will only remember the books whose opening lines drew me in.

So how can you tell if your story has a great hook? I have a few suggestions.

  • Leave out complex names, dates, places, or obscure references. I find books that start with “Mordecai van Oldenburg was scheduled for an appointment in Caledonia on the twenty-first of September” to be giving too much information in a hook. Not everyone will think so, but I find most people like keeping it simple. Having several names thrown at you in a sentence is usually not a good thing.
  • Don’t be too vague. This should be obvious, but write a hook relating to the story. If you go for intrigue, don’t go so far no one will understand what you’re talking about.
  • Ask people to read the opening line. This is perhaps the best way to truly know if your opening line is good.
  • Being blunt can often be effective. Like the line from Moby-Dick, “Call me Ishmael.” Blunt, though effective. The character is introducing himself in a pretty casual way.

Practice writing hooks and don’t be afraid to experiment with what to write. Often writers are held back by the strange fear of writing something “wrong” or “stupid”. We’ve all been there. Maybe you aren’t happy with the hook you’ve written, or you think it’s already great. Even if it is, it’s good to keep challenging yourself with other ideas and to show your work to others for critique. Just remember that the first page of a book is what sells the story for those who browse quickly, and having an enticing hook will stick with readers even years later.

Leave your opening lines in the comments if you’d like to share! :)

Happy writing,


Steampunk Short Story

While at the Avalon Expo last week, I was asked to enter a short story into an anthology. Exciting, right? So obviously I’ve decided to take part in this. I think I’m going to write a Steampunk story that takes place in the same world as Sky Knight, and happens before the events of the first book. Perhaps the character in this short story will make an appearance in the sequel at some point. Lots of ideas to toss around, though I do have a few thoughts already written down.

The story will be posted up next year–probably on my blog for free, so everyone can have a taste of The Skylands universe before buying the main books. It will have a different feel than Sky Knight, as the protagonist will probably be a younger girl living in the Lowerlands, ignorant of the happenings in the sky. This story will be more about the steamworks and rough living on the ground than the crime-solving adventures in Sky Knight.

Pretty excited to start this project, so stay tuned for more information!

Happy writing,


Avalon Expo – Book Signing Event

I’m seriously the worst at posting stuff on time, but I guess that’s one of the cons of being a writer for so long. If you’ve been following me on Twitter lately, you might have noticed all the bizarre photos of costumes I’ve been uploading. Bizarre photos are pretty much the only kind of photos I post anyway, so… I guess it was no different than usual? Ahem. The Avalon Expo. Right. Let’s talk about that.

Sitting at table

I had this whole plan put together: Enter this event, make a Steampunk costume, sell some books. So, like the procrastinator I am, I rushed together a costume in a matter of two days (hahaha…haha…ha…sadface). Apparently I fooled everyone, because I was complimented on all the hard work I did. Everything came out of my closet and was either pinned together or cut up to create the articles of clothing I needed. No one should ever do this. Don’t be a procrastinator. It’s stressful.

In front of table

Hopefully next year when I attend another event, I’ll have something better put together (but I doubt it).

On the plus side, the event was super fun. I met many interesting people (shout out to all my creative neighbouring tables), bought a few trinkets to add to my collection of trinkets, and sold some books! I learnt there are other authors in my area (and just creative people in general) and even spoke to a few of them, which was cool. Also, the costumes were on-point for some people. Totally ran into some of my favourite sci-fi characters; the jealousy is real.

Anyone who bought a book at the event was entered to win the sequel, though the contest winner won’t be announced until next year when the sequel is in my hands. I want to attend more events between now and then and give more people the chance to enter.

I’ll be honest: I was pretty nervous. It was my first book signing and there were so many people there. By the second day, however, I was feeling pretty confident to talk to anyone. I guess that’s how it goes for authors. And I finally got through that “What’s your book about?” question that I dread. Like seriously, someone asks me that and I freeze. “Oh, um, it’s about, well, a woman who’s a knight in the skies…” Yeah. Really pathetic. Yet I somehow managed to make a compelling blurb by the end of the first day and made it even better by the second day. And I somehow also managed to sell books with my awkward blathering.

just me and my book

I learned I need to come up with something better to write when I sign books–something creative or catchy. I’m sure I’ll think of something before the next convention swings around. Until then, I have my sequel to work on and the new makeover of The Secret World of Dragons. It’s almost complete. The cover is finished, though I don’t want to release it until I’m done the first draft and started the editing process of the story.

Now on to play more #1lineWed on Twitter.

Happy writing,