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December 11, 2013

Opening Lines: Hooks, Grabbers, and Zingers – Reader Candy

What’s in a powerful opening line? 

Everything. Tone. Voice. Character. The promise of the story.  Everything.

Example: I only need to repeat the phrase, Call me Ishmael, and you will automatically breathe salty air, feel wet wooden deck beneath your feet, and visualize the irascible Captain Ahab and an illusive whale named Moby Dick. First lines tell us whether we’re sitting down to a fudge brownie sundae, or a lobster slathered in lemon butter.

Like most readers, before I consider buying a book, I peruse the first lines. If the author doesn’t have me at hello, they won’t have me ever.

Here are three of my favorite opening lines:

There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.

Bartholomew Lampion was blinded at the age of three, when surgeons reluctantly removed his eyes to save him from a fast-spreading cancer; but although eyeless, Barty regained his sight when he was thirteen.

On the second Thursday of the month, Mrs. Dombrowski brings her dead husband to our therapy group.
– STORYTELLER / Jodi Picoult   #1 bestseller of 2013

Strong first lines really are reader candy. If there is a chocolaty, taste-bud -extravaganza in the first few lines, I’m sold. Why? Because those first lines convince me there will be more deliciousness deep inside the book.

Share your favorite opening lines with us. We'd love to hear.

Here are some yummy first lines from the Plotting Princesses for you to sample:


She should have locked the door.
Theresa Crawford watched the man close the door behind him with a firm but solid click. Big trouble—she could sense it. Darkness radiated from him in waves.

MORTAL DECEPTION / Lizabeth Lipperman

Before the night ends, I’m going to have sex with a total stranger. Oh, God.
Taking a deep breath Dani Perez walked toward the hotel bar, her red stilettos clattering like a Riverdance audition on the black marble floor.


Henry Chase knew someone kept a watchful gaze on him even while he feigned sleep. A chill ran through him, making all the hairs on the back of his neck stand at attention and his scalp tingle. He scented the soft aroma of something decidedly feminine in the stale air of the hotel room.
 Releases Jan 14, 2014 from Ellora's Cave


Late! Paul Bernard dashed out of the Metro station and bolted up rue de Faubourg de St Honore toward the British Embassy, holding his jacket over his head to ward off the light morning mist. Just as he got to the corner the traffic light changed. Bloody hell!

WARRIOR LOVER / Karilyn Bentley

“How much?” Lily pushed two paintings across the wooden countertop and tried to slow the tripping thumps her heart passed off as beats. Why hadn’t she moved learn-to-bargain-successfully to the top of her to-do list? After all the time she spent haggling with Old Tom the shopkeeper, she should have learned the skill.

HONEYMOON FOR ONE / Chris Keniston
How the heck does anyone walk on these things?” Michelle mumbled, doing her best to strut down the hall. She knew full well her wobble looked more like a teenage boy in drag.
Once she'd made her decision to ditch her sensible side, she had realized there wouldn't be much swinging if she dressed like a small-town librarian.

 LADY FIASCO / Kathleen Baldwin

He stood at the edge of the ballroom like a smoldering statue, and if she were not his mother he would have strangled her.
She stabbed her needle in again. “Tyrell, for pity sake, won’t you please dance? You’re embarrassing me. Surely one of these young ladies...”
Not bloody likely.    

Kathleen Baldwin is an award-winning author of YA and Regency Romance, including MISTAKEN KISS, a Holt Medallion Finalist. For goodies, contests, historical extras, and more, visit her website at:


Liz Lipperman said...

Loved this post, Kat. I am also hooked by great first lines, as well as hooks at the end of a chapter. My favorite one is at the end of the Prologue of Lace by Shirley Conran.

"Which one of you bitches is my mother."

Thanks for posting these.

Kathleen Baldwin said...

Oh, wow, Liz, what great end of chapter line.
Love it.

Kathleen Baldwin said...

I'm with you, I love it when the Chapter ending has a strong hook. Keeps me turning the pages.

It would be fun to do a post similar to this one but featuring Zinger
End of Chapter lines.

Sylvia said...

Dang it, I forgot to send you mine, oh well another time. Really enjoyed reading this post, but so many I have already read. Keep up the good work ladies. And yes, Kat, do a post on the zinger end of chapter lines? What line made you turn the page at end of the chapter.

Kathleen Baldwin said...

Hi Sylvia!
I'm sorry we didn't get yours up here. But thanks for coming by. I'll catch you next time, for the Chapter ending hooks. :-)

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