Breakout 5: Ally Blake – How to hook your reader

How critical is your first page, really?

If it doesn’t grab the reader / editor / agent on the first page, you are done.

Step 1:  Opening line

  • Memorable
  • Poetic
  • Gets a laugh
  • It out to connect, entice, tickle reader’s curiosity
  • Make it impossible for a reader t put your book down

Your opening line should invite the reader to read the story.

Good examples to study:

  • Hunger games
  • Fault in our stars
  • Twilight
  • We were liars


Stages of hooking your reader:

  • Hook
  • Tease
  • Taste
  • Establishment
  • Character

The Hook:

  • Start in the middle of the action
  • Shock the reader
  • Be funny or unexpected
  • Dialogue – something to connect with instantly




  • Giving people a hint of the style
  • Give them your voice at its purist
  • Does voice match subject matter
  • Establish dominance over story from the start
  • Check out your favourite authors and see what their opening lines are like


  • Earthing reader in the story
  • Two different ways
  • Set up scene – time and / or place
  • Let reader know what kind of story they will get
  • Eg young adult, romance, murder mystery



Step 2:  Follow up with a smashing opening page:


  • Setting the scene
  • Grounding reader as soon as possible
  • Exactly where they are
  • When they are (time era season etc)



  • Emotional atmosphere
  • How do you feel inside the character’s eyes
  • Sight, smell, taste etc
  • Put reader in right mood for your story
  • Energy
  • Hope, fatigue, delight etc


  • Does your opening have tension?
  • Doesn’t have to be action
  • Create empathy – emotional attachment to reader
  • Show, don’t tell
  • Dialogue works
  • Better to be part of conversation

Character imprint 

  • If doesn’t happen on opening line, make it happen on first page
  • Is antagonist the first person we meet?  First person who intrigues us
  • Take care when introducing secondary characters too early
  • Think of how they are introduced, if name, he, she etc
  • Reader wants to love the hero so will forgive him a long
  • Heroine needs to be strong enough to match him
  • Get hero and heroine on page together quickly


  • Keep it short
  • Use only if absolutely necessary
  • Often can be chapter 1


  • Opening is what hooks them
  • Closing is what gets them to buy next book
  • Reason readers stick to the book all the way through
  • If question is asked at beginning of book, then this is place to answer it

Kindle direct 

  • Now pays based on how many pages they read, rather than per book

First page

  • Inviting
  • Intriguing
  • Grounding
  • Cajole reader to keep going


Ally will put notes up on her website

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