My Gangbuster First Paragraph

Judy Alter

Two days ago I talked to four groups of fourth graders at an elementary school. They were surprisingly well informed about writing and fiction (hats off to their teachers!). I asked them if it was a story if I described a walk through the woods and described the trees and undergrowth and animals. They said no, so I asked what it would take to make a story. They answered “rising action,” a problem, etc., but the thing they most consistently said was, “A hook.”

I’ve always been a believer in “hooking” the reader from the first sentence. I’m admittedly a pantser, having always thought outlines were for all those research papers I did in graduate school. So if I can get that first line done, be it a blog, book review, short story, or novel, I’m usually on my way.

I’ve written one really gangbuster opening in my long career. The Perfect Coed opens with this short paragraph:

Susan Hogan drove around Oak Grove, Texas, for two days before she realized there was a dead body in the trunk of her car. And it was another three days before she knew that someone was trying to kill her.

Read More…