Hooking Readers

Just because I’m a teacher doesn’t mean I get summers off. These past 6 weeks were my busiest time as a writer. I participated in a  month-long blogfest in July and submitted my query and first 200 words for critique. As part of my research I watched Michael Hauge’s DVD on screenwriting (easily applied to writing novels). I thought I’d share some tidbits of wisdom I gleamed from his seminar on grabbing the reader in the first 10 pages. Here are the top 5 openings to employ according to Hauge.

1) The Big Action: used when your hero is a cop or spy . . .or whatever job where action is part of their everyday life. This opening is powerful because emotion grows out of conflict.

2) Outside Action: some big occurrence of action, could take up to 5 pages. Hero is out of the action and then story cuts to hero, showing them in their everyday life with no idea of what’s about to happen. Now you have superior position, anticipation, and curiosity. Think ET & Star Wars

3) The Prologue: takes place years or centuries before present day. Think Splash & Lord of the Rings. *Note: make sure the agent you’re querying accepts the dreaded prologue!

4) The Flashback: starts in present day but flashes back to tell the story & then flashes back to present. Think Titanic & Out of Africa.

5) Everyday Hero Intro: hero living everyday life before they’re plunged into their major conflict. Keep in mind that the first character introduced should be your hero so your reader will know who they’re rooting for. First 5-10 pages should present your hero with some new desire to get the story moving.

What opening did you employ? I used #5 but I’m still struggling with how to do this best. Most articles I’ve read in the past two years since I started writing say not to throw the reader into action or start your first sentence with dialogue. Agents/editors claim it’s a cheat & shows you’re not a great writer. Yet, through the contest I participated in, it seems those stories were the ones favored time and time again. And according to Hauge, the big action seems fine. His DVD dated back to 2005 but most of his advice still seemed relevant to me. N-E-ways, if you have any other tidbits of wisdom for this struggling writer, please share before I drown my sorrows in chocolate and gain another 10 pounds:):)

2 comments on “Hooking Readers

  1. Why are you drowning your sorrows? You’ve successfully completed a blogfest and managed to query agents! That’s something some writers never achieve. Yippee for you, and if you must gain ten pounds, I say do it by celebrating with chocolate (chocolate martinis!)… Good luck to you, Jamie. I’ve seen first hand your willingness to revise, revise, revise… because “revision is a way of life.” Who said that, anyway?

  2. Hmm, I think I use #1, but honestly, I think it’s a combination. There really isn’t one specific right way to start a story. That’s the great thing about writing, rules are meant to be broken 😉

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