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BEGINNING & OPENING HOOKS

Story ID:7613
Written by:Kathe M. Campbell (bio, contact, other stories)
Story type:The Writing Salon
Location:Butte Mt. USA
Year:2011
Person:All Writers
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BEGINNING AND OPENING HOOKS

by Kathe Campbell

"Once Upon A Time . . . ," an ageless maxim savored as the foundation and joyous beginning of children's stories read time and again.

All well and good for the younger set, but we big kids also enjoy a little emotional rush to jolt us into reading beyond page one. As for me, if the first line doesn't reach out and grab, I seldom read on. Editors like how I jazz up the first line in my short creative stories, conjuring up refreshing and captivating ideas, and tweaking the senses with intrigue.

If an opening hook has you stumped, go ahead and finish your story. While editing, look for words or phrases that bring on emotional highs with sentiments, sensations, and passions to embellish the first line(s). Develop a hook that offers an editor more than common, dreary language. Grasp curiosity by painting a vivid word picture that begs to be explored, but never giving the farm away. Dig out clever lines or phrases deep within your story. Make use of quotes, advice, humor, and even shocks to push the reader onto the second paragraph. Or maybe shoot point blank with a question before telling your tale.

But, whatever you do, hook that reader at the outset, for if you can’t feed them interest, your efforts may never nourish.

Let me offer a few monkey see-monkey do illustrations...



"Whew... that was a close one," the game warden and I uttered in unison. While the warden watched the cow moose and her injured calf cross slowly over the next ridge, he shook an uncertain head and whispered, "Well, did my best, sure hope the little little feller makes it.".............................................Compelling dialog divulges our game warden's concerns. Pulled from the end of the story, it sets up good anticipation.



While spiffing up both bathrooms, it seemed that after umpteen years both oak toilet seats were looking mighty weary. No amount of cleaning would heal a few cracks which, heaven forbid, could give way leaving my enthroned darlin's mired amongst splinter wreckage in toilet water. ...................................................Obvious toilet humor to tempt the likes of Mr. Thomas Crapper himself! Installing new toilet seats in my precarious one-armed condition makes for hilarity. An Erma Brombeck honorable mention.



Nine months had run into ten during those medically unsophisticated days of the wretched early 30's. "Oh, don't worry about it, Maudie," the doctor had avowed. "I've had several new mothers fill out a ten month term." ............................................Bombshell of an opener. I used dialog by the Dr. to broach the status of mother and child. A crafty way of setting up my adoption as the piece moves through a half century of surprises.



My world had come apart and nothing or no one could ever repair it. ...................................A simple, but gripping straight shot of torment and doubt in a story of incredible pain and loss.



Would I see the creature with my own eyes any moment now? What's going on here I pondered while silently watching the mule doe trotting back and forth, up and down the gully from the road to the creek, time after time. She was putting on the show of shows, squealing and grunting as though she was wounded or sick. .................................................If this set of circumstances doesn't have you sitting on tenterhooks, nothing will. Capturing the question came easy while the chilling events played out. The preditor was not disclosed until half way through the piece, leaving the first few paragraphs spellbinding.



“Whadoya mean, would I like to be the nations first lady Boy Scout Executive?" I gasped in utter astonishment. ............................................Dialog obviously smacks of an unusual career op as divulged in this charmer.



It was the bummer of bummers, for I wish I had stayed in bed that day, no matter the temptation. But then that's silly, for it's not normal to expect ugly things to befall us when all seems sunny and bright as we awake each day. ..........................................This opening line sizzles with regret. The word ‘ugly’ in the second line leaves the reader searching for closure in the near tragic tale of a blundering accident.



It is so ungodly and frustrating to my thinking, I can barely stand it when I read about the dozens of cruelties perpetrated....... .....................................................Passions run deep in this first line. Poignant and heartbreaking words to suggest shock in a story of abandoned country dump-offs. Now keep your panties dry, all ends well.



I imagined I could hear the school bell ringing, reciting in unison, and the laughter of children at recess while photographing there last summer. Red Rover. Red Rover. .........................................I pulled this opener from the last line of the original essay. Pure joy and déjà vu buried any travelogue effect. Great interview and a nostalgic view of one of Montana's fading one-room school houses.



No matter how hard I tried to maintain the mother-daughter relationship, inevitably the rolls reversed. Alzheimer's, a degenerative brain disease..... ................................To hook the reader, I jumped right in to disclose family heartache and frustration in this story of my mother's fight with Alzheimer's. Instead of opening with, "My Mother Suffered From Alzheimer's... " I created a first line by setting up interest, but not giving the farm away.



Northbound geese took turns honking while winging in vee formation over lower mountain passes onto long valleys. Well below the tree line, pussy willows were trying desperately to bud in-between spring snows and pruning shears. .............................Lovely and simple descriptions of nature smacking of a great adventure? Absolutely as we traveled on an Indian Reservation near the Canadian border to amusing surprises and great awakenings.



(Note - Occasionally Nancy Kopp and I have been asked to do Rx pieces for aspiring writers, the mechanics of character building, dialogs, plot, etc. I'm not quick enough to do a daily blog that covers many writing subjects, but Nancy has a great one at www.writergrannysworld.blogspot.com. Check her out.)