The Hook

One of the questions I heard this week was the prospective author felt the story she wanted to write has already been written.

My initial reaction is she is right. Her story, your story, my story has been written — or at least the bones of the tale are often quite similar. What makes it unique, however, is you and I put the spin on it. We take our experiences and weave them into the story line. We use our imagination to put meat on the bones. That’s how stories are written — from our perspective. We share the same emotions. We often have very similar encounters. What separates us, however, is  the author — YOU.

As an example, if you’ve watched one Hallmark movie, you’ve probably watched most of them. The locations may change, the characters may be different, but almost invariably the narrative follows a similar script — an introduction of characters (in Hallmark’s case, often as opposites), a connection is made, there is a late foil (usually an ex-love), always the plot twist of a misunderstanding, and a final resolution.

Yet each of those authors, each of those screenwriters made their particular story unique because they injected themselves and their experiences into the account. They made it their own … their unique own.

It all starts, however, with the first words. That’s the hook. After the synopsis, the success of your yarn often is determined by the first few pages. That’s what people read first. If you lose them there, chances are they are not going to make it to page 2 or 3 or the end.

So today I thought I would include some opening lines. Some will be familiar; others not. I want you to decide {yes, this is an assignment} whether the quick snippet leads you to ask “what’s next” or “who cares.” There are no right answers and feel free to share an opener that caught your attention … or just plain turned you off.

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife. However little known the feelings or views of such a man may be on his first entering a neighbourhood, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the surrounding families, that he is considered as the rightful property of some one or other of their daughters.” — Jane Austen, Pride & Prejudice

“Mother died today. Or maybe yesterday, I don’t know. I had a telegram from the home: ‘Mother passed away. Funeral tomorrow. Yours sincerely.’ That doesn’t mean anything. It may have been yesterday.” — Albert Camus, The Stranger

“In fairy-tales, witches always wear silly black hats and black coats, and they ride on broomsticks. But this is not a fairy-tale. This is about REAL WITCHES.” — Roald Dahl, The Witches

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way — in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.” — Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

“Call me Ishmael. Some years ago — never mind how long precisely — having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world. It is a way I have of driving off the spleen, and regulating the circulation. Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people’s hats off — then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can. This is my substitute for pistol and ball. With a philosophical flourish Cato throws himself upon his sword; I quietly take to the ship. There is nothing surprising in this. If they but knew it, almost all men in their degree, some time or other, cherish very nearly the same feelings towards the ocean with me.” — Herman Melville, Moby Dick

Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta.” — Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita

“As she surveyed the royal banquet from her high vantage point in the Minstrel’s Gallery, Justine Parker twisted slightly to get more comfortable in the tight bodice of her gown.” — Jonathan Posner, The Witchfinder’s Well

“The Mustang muscled its way through the early mid-May night, each twist and turn on the northern New Jersey back roads to Greenwood Lake, NY, responsive to my touch. It was 1966. The top was down, allowing the humid air to whip around the car and its occupants. The radio was turned all the way up, fighting the outside noise with music of the night. The four of us were already screaming to be heard – occasionally punctuated with off-key singing – screeching, actually – when Cousin Brucie picked a relevant platter to play.” — Joe Siccardi, My Name is Sam … and Heaven is Still Shining Through.

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: Three things in life that can destroy a person: Lust, Pride, Anger.

About wisdomfromafather

I'm just an ordinary guy walking along the journey of life.
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8 Responses to The Hook

  1. Bruce says:

    Joe, your talking about driving on the back roads of northern New Jersey to Greenwood Lake struck a responsive chord with me. I was raised in a small town named Wanaque, NJ. The main route through town was Ringwood Avenue, a two lane road, also known as county road 511. This connected to the Greenwood Lake Turnpike which meandered through the Wanaque Reservoir up to Greenwood Lake and West Milford. My grandparents lived in West Milford, near Upper Greenwood Lake.

    Listening to Cousin Brucie Morrow from WABC on the car radio. I remember being 18 and driving up to Greenwood Lake, NY, to legally drink a beer. Then driving back south to go home on the Greenwood Lake Turnpike. Winding and twisting turns, and it was pitch black out there. Couldn’t see a thing without headlights.

    As Bob Hope might say: Thanks for the memories.


  2. TamrahJo says:

    My dad always said, “there is nothing new under the sun” – and I, too, have written things where the words just flowed out of me, set it aside, and realized, “already been written, why bother finishing/publishing’ – and yet, both from external opinions voiced AND my internal knowledge, just the way I say it, or the ‘me’ I bring to it, may be just enough different, or said in just a way, another may read and connect with it, be changed by it, although nothing within the overall story is anything ‘new’ to them, or something they haven’t heard several ways in several other fronts over their lifetime – but yes, opening lines/paragraphs (and especially those you chose as examples!) are so ever important…. 🙂


  3. Paula Kiger (Big Green Pen) says:

    Really interesting approach and post!


  4. Janel says:

    This conversation sounds familiar 😊


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