How to Hook Readers with your First Sentence

“It was a bright spring day when Calla Emery kneed the man her mother sent to woo her, deep in the crotch.”

With this first sentence, indie author Katrina N. Lewis immediately “hooked” me on her debut Epic Fantasy novel, Heavy is the Head: Love and War.

First sentences—the bane or boon of every writer—are often the only chance we get to capture and captivate not only readers, but agents as well.

This is especially important in the age of ebooks, where, according to Slate, only 38% of readers reading electronically quit reading after the first sentence*. The Nielsen Norman Group** also shows that while 79% of their web readers skimmed the first page, only 16% actually read the entire page.

In writer-speak, that means on 16% of people move on to read your entire opening page.

*Cue Writer Heart-Attack*

Wait! Don’t run away or hang up your writer hat yet!

While writing a strong opening hook is daunting and infuriating at times, it is definitely possible.

When looking at your first sentence, it helps to look at it from a reader’s POV. We’re talking about the first sentence of chapter 1, mind you, as many readers may skip prologues, depending on the genre.

So what are the key things a reader is looking for?

1. Who am I following into the story?

If this is a third-person point-of-view story told by a narrator, ideally the character’s name or nickname should show up in the first sentence. If you’re planning on sharing their full name (given name and middle/surname), it will most likely be shared in sentence one.

This tells us outright who we should focus on and try to relate to in the tale.

2. What feeling does this scene/story have?

What tone/emotions are you wanting your reader to walk into this book with? Is that a feeling that they associate with their expectations for the genre?

For example, does the opening of your horror-thriller leave a feeling of foreboding and darkness? Or does it accidentally (or purposefully, for misdirection’s sake) leave your readers like a pretty princess having a tea party under a willow tree in the sun?

You want your book to ‘click’ right away—to make your reader sa