Does your story's hook ask a question/leaves you and readers wondering a bit?

I am curious about whether or not the first sentence of your first chapter makes the readers question what happens next or leaves the reader (and maybe you) wanting more.

So, tell me, does your first chapter’s sentence make your readers question why or what is going to happen next in the story?

I know that most stories should in a sense do that anyway, but many writers don’t.

You can even show me your hooks from your stories if you desire.
Enjoy!!!

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Nope. I am notoriously bad with hooks, so I gave up on trying to generate them in Sentence 1 and chapter 1. My excessive trying led to over-engineered chapter one’s. So, my goal is clear, simple delivery where everyone can understand what is going on from moment to moment. My current NaNo story starts with:

I am Maximus, the Champion of Champions.

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I’ve read all those greatest first sentences from famous novels, and none of them do anything for me. The only first sentence that compelled me to keep reading a book I really didn’t want to read appeared in a self-published book. I wouldn’t worry so much about hooking the reader with the first sentence, first paragraph, first chapter or whatever. The thing to hook them with is the premise of the book and the internal struggle of your main character.

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I wouldn’t say the first sentence, but to be honest, it’s not that important. It’s really the first three pages that need to be good and command a bit of intrigue (or so I’ve heard from publishers) along with the first chapter itself. I would say this is semi-true.

You’re at least meant to make the reader care a little about the protagonist (or whoever they’re following) and be engaged enough with your “wow” factor to continue reading.

Anyway, I would say so. My environment where I begin the story is very interesting and my character is a kind hearted fool with a dog. I basically write about how he interacts with his enviroment why making his way towards a meeting.

The meeting is supposed to be the mystery factor: who is he meeting, why is he meeting them, etc.

Why his character, and the environment itself, are supposed to make the reader care (or at least become a little intrigued).

The dog itself is a bit of a cheap trope on my part. Everyone loves a character with a child or an animal, especially if they’re kind-hearted. I do make the dog important to the story itself, so its sole purpose isn’t just making us like the protagonist. It is critical that in the beginning the reader becomes attached to my protagonist (say this soley about my story, this isn’t true for every story), so I brought in the doggo.

At least, I hope it comes off like that.

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Hmm, not really. I experimented with them a lot but found the story often turned out better if it started without one. But I do have some that end with questions :thinking: Sometimes the more hook-worthy line pops up later down the road

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This is really interesting that you guys think that. And here I thought that a hook was an absolute thing and I tend to stress over that a bit.

Thank you for letting me know.

I try.

These two stories taking place in New Sollei, reflect each other in that both characters are walking down the school hallway in some way.

The Rat Girl
Every walk to the school door was a parade for Celeste Gilmore, the protagonist in everyone’s lives, acting as Wonder Woman with her long black hair in wavy ringlets down her shoulders, a bright smile that made boys blush, and curves that made eyes ogle.

(so long, I might cut it during editing. does it make people wonder? no. not yet.)

Between Roses
Eryn strutted down the school hall in fury to catch up with the stupid nerd in the plaid shirt.

(obviously, this one is edited and shorter. makes people wonder?)


There Lives a Beast in the Burning Heart
Argenton Woodman signed off his journal with his name and age—he was still sixteen as far as he knew—then closed his notebook to wait for midnight to wash away his day’s memories like the rain did the blood after a fight.

(this could also be shorter. I tend to write long hooks when I’m drafting. also, idk if anyone would wonder…much)


Lone Gold, Daring Purple
“We have decided, you shall be delayed one year.”

(you can see, I have edited this, so it’s short XD Many people have liked this hook.)


But sometimes, my hooks are longer if they are for stories inspired by literary fiction.

The Facade of Quad in Nimrod
In the country of Lwendolen lay the once grand city of Nimrod that was the birthplace of King Knimrod II, but only the deteriorating lip-gumming old folk remembered the truly grand days.

(this is long, but it’s edited. It starts out with vibes. hoping that people are at least curious about Nimrod to continue on. Could be edited again, perhaps.)

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I wish more writers would focus on making a good first line rather than forcing a hook :stuck_out_tongue:

i mean maybe i’m in the minority here but when i flip open a book to see if it’s worth investing in, i’m not looking for a first line that’s trying to claw me in. I want substance. Show me your voice, or a character worth following, or at least something interesting about the world.

and sure, technically those are hooks. but clearly the meaning of the term is getting fuddled with how hard we’re trying to create “good” hooks because @DomiSotto just went on about how she’s bad at hooks and then hit us with this

banger hook.

That being said… no my nano book’s opening line isn’t a very good hook or a good opener tbh. It’s kind of pretentious so i might not keep it but it was fun to write lol

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I think more readers have longer attention spans and find first-line hooks a bit cheesy than a lot of writing advisors are willing to admit. Opening with some grandiose statement or mysterious event can come off a bit pretentious, or condescending at worst.
Not that you shouldn’t drop a hook as soon as it fits, of course. But I’d argue you have until the end of the first chapter to place it in there, provided your characters and setting can hold up til then.

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Aww, you are nice. Tbh, I am pretty sure it breaks the rule of starting books with char basically saying ‘here is my story, are you in?’. But this was the easiest way to start, so I did, because I am exhausted from trying to start with hooks. Lone Werewolf to date was the hardest and I still have nightmares about chapter 1, version 20, version 21, etc.

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Stumbled across this old post while searching for something completely different, but it might be useful. ¯\_(ﭢ)_/¯

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Btw, while the first sentence can be a hook, I have heard that it’s the first paragraph you want to catch the reader’s eye with. It’s more like the entire paragraph is a hook.

Of course, it would be wonderful if you could have a good first sentence, but you don’t need to stress over it. The Facade of Quad in Nimrod’s first line is like…idk, a good hook? But the paragraph,

In the country of Lwendolen lay the once grand city of Nimrod that was the birthplace of King Knimrod II, but only the deteriorating lip-gumming old folk remembered the truly grand days. Today, egotistical rich men and painted ladies were the upper crust, the cream of society, and a true snob mob that sat atop their imaginary thrones. Below them lurked the designated poor and, further down, those unofficially classified as Failures crawled at the feet of everyone. These Failures were at most from the middle class but never the upper class.

Many people have liked how I describe the rich people here and now I get into “Failure”. I have introduced a character in the blurb as a failure, so you know what’s coming :wink:


And, Between Roses

Eryn strutted down the school hall in fury to catch up with the stupid nerd in the plaid shirt. What was he thinking going off like that without waiting for her at her locker as usual? When Harrison spotted her, he dislodged his knapsack like it was infected, snatched the homework out, and handed it to her in haste.

Starts with an interaction that introduces the reader to Eryn.

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Is that a rule? I feel like a lot of modern books start that way and it seems to work well in this instance.

I can imagine :sweat_smile:

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Yes it leaves them wondering why the heck I actually wrote it lol.

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Those first liners never seem to work for me. Maybe it’s just how I like to start my stories but thematic start doesn’t work.
But I don’t think you need to be literal to create a hook.

I know what you’re talking about but I wouldn’t even call that a hook. I understand the hook as “what did you use to entice the reader to continue reading” and I think there are a lot of ways of how to do this that don’t involve vague statements that readers won’t get until they finish reading. I mean, that’s the opposite of a hook!

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So many varying opinions on novel hooks far as if it is necessary or not.

This is great!

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Oh, the answer I simple. Just write the story you love and other people can’t put down. It doesn’t matter how you do it. Win!

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Oh, since we were doing quotes, current project starts with,

Waking up to a blinding green blaze was about as pleasant as bleaching his eyes.

I’m not super loving it yet, but doing a philosophical statement instead wouldn’t make sense here because my character wakes up with amnesia. He literally doesn’t have thoughts yet. :joy: This is his first thought.

I guess I could start with something like,

In retrospect, the day he awoke in that sphere was the best day of his life, but it certainly didn’t feel like it when his eyes burned like he flushed them with bleach.

But I’d have to be careful with this start because it changes the tone of the novel, and I would have to adjust the rest of it to fit this “retrospect” approach.

Hmmm. Damn, i don’t hate it though.

Now I’m questioning everything again. Would this story make more sense as told this way?

The more I think about it, the more I’m convinced that this notion of writing a ‘first-sentence hook’ is just a reification. It’s almost as if people started looking at great popular novels and thought, “Oh! It’s so great and many people read it because obviously it has a compelling start. We should aspire to write like this.”

Do first sentences really matter that much? Here's a rudimentary thought experiment

The family of Dashwood had long been settled in Sussex.

The sun was nearly set behind the distant mountains of Liddesdale, when a few of the scattered and terrified inhabitants of the village of Hersildoun, which had four days before been burned by a predatory band of English Borderers, were now busied in repairing their ruined dwellings.

Which are you hooked by? Which sets the tone more?

The first quote is the opening sentence from Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen. The second quote is the opening sentence of Waverley by Sir Walter Scott, Austen’s contemporary.

Both were the first published novels by each author. Both were published anonymously. Which do you think sold more copies?

Sense and Sensibility sold 750 copies, which was an average amount at that time. Waverley sold out its initial print run of 1000 copies in the first three weeks, sold out the second edition of 2000 copies, and had five further editions before the end of the year it was published.

Scott’s novels were extremely popular. He had print runs of over 10,000 copies, which was unprecedented at that time. By the mid-nineteenth century, he was the single best-selling Romantic-period author (more than all the other authors put together like Mary Shelley, Keats, Blake etc). He was regarded as the equal of Homer and Shakespeare; he influenced Dostoevsky, Tolstoy and Dumas.

So, in principle, Scott’s novels should appear in the popular literary canon. If his novels were that popular, he must have had incredible openings, right? The literati couldn’t get enough of that crack, right? Most people haven’t heard of Scott. Most can’t name a single book by him. He doesn’t appear on ‘best opening lines’ lists.

Austen, on the other hand, appears on these lists. She is a literary institution. The way we discuss her contemporaries as her contemporaries is extraordinary. She is more popular now than she ever was. The openings of her novels are ingrained into our brains.

If the first lines of her novels are that great and so resonant with readers, why didn’t she sell more in her time? Austen’s novels are great. But do we care about Austen’s opening lines because they have some great magic? No. It’s more that they just keep appearing frequently everywhere in media.

When you really look at it there is nothing remarkable, nothing world-changing about any of these lines. It’s just a bunch of symbols we put meaning into. The first line doesn’t matter. Not to readers, not to history, not to culture. Even if you’re the Father of the Historical Novel or some lady who pays a publisher to print your first novel. You can dissect it all you want, and you can carefully craft it but it’s the rest of the story that matters more.

TL;DR first lines don’t matter.

But there is something to it when writing short stories. The old trick is to write the first sentence and then subvert it in the second sentence. So it’s sexy, it’s unexpected, it’s twisty… all that good stuff.

I'll throw in some examples from the latest Paris Review:

An adolescent shriek woke her. Cockerels, she thought, cockerels. - The Education of Mrs. R by Katherine Dunn

I was plagued by remorse, but my remorse seemed inspired by insignificant dumb things–things not really worthy of bona fide remorse. That didn’t make it any less painful or plague-worthy, as I was still riddled with disgrace on a minute-by-minute basis, so I decided to conduct a scientific study to analyze the cause(s). - Diary of Remorse by Nancy Lemann

It was something. Out of nowhere, I didn’t give a shit about anything for like a month. - The Ceremony by Sam Pink

All this to say, in my opinion, first-line hooks in novels are not enticing to me, not necessary and do not matter. It’s a technique used in short stories, though, which I like but then is it the first line or the second that matters?

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I think first paragraph or so sets the tone of the story/gives you a glimpse of writing style and form and voice and all that, so it’s definitely important!! I like to make my hook vague and present a bit of information or introduce something that’s clearly gonna be relevant.

Examples:

“If one were to examine Silver Avenue from afar, they probably wouldn’t linger.”

“It would be a lie to say that I’ve never found joy in Sylvia Halloway’s suffering.”

“Between midnight and sunrise the world becomes a blank slate.”

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