He watched in awe as the keyboard came alive and typed out the first sentence.

Image: www.unitedafa.org

It is said that the first sentence in your essay, story or novel must provide the hook that captures the attention of the reader.  But what does that really mean?

As I researched this piece, I found that there are multiple examples of what a good first line is, but not so much help in the how to do it.  Well, that’s not really fair.  If we could tell you how to write a perfect first sentence every time, you would wind up using someone elses’ ideas and words.  The art has to come from you.


Consider these:

  • Start with Action, not Dialogue or Description This “rule” is not Universally followed.  Some writers do begin with dialogue, but consider this: if you start your story with someone speaking, the reader will not know who it is, nor will they necessarily care.  That said, dialogue in the first scene is always a plus.  Just not the first line.  Likewise, heavy description in a first line may bore your reader.
  • Good first lines are short and impactful.  Pulling your reader into the action, creating a mystery, or in a few words, introducing the theme or problem to be resolved will grab and hold your reader.
  • Raise a question that you want your reader to be concerned with.

The first sentence your reader sees is what set the scene, creates the tension, pulls the reader in.  We call it “the hook”.

I say that if you must rewrite your first sentence a dozen times—or more—until you finally get words that sing, do it.  Do it and be glad for the time spent and the result.