Mastering Plot: Part II

By DiAnn Mills @DiannMills


Welcome to the second blog of Mastering Plot. On June 29th, we talked about:

  1. The writer’s goals in establishing a dynamic story.
  2. Developing unique characters.
  3. Showing how characters lead the way in plot
  4. The value of forming a story idea

In today’s post, we’ll talk about how the opening hook or first line of a novel plunges the reader into the story world by creating a curiosity or posing a question. Every genre needs an alluring first sentence to entice the reader to continue on.

The hook is the writer’s invitation to the reader to begin an exciting journey.

“Come join me in this adventure.”

The writer issues a subtle promise to readers that every word will be as powerful as the opening line. Writers spend hours honoring their commitment. Our opening hooks establish the essence of our story and are designed to affect reader emotions.

I like what Donald Newlove says about opening sentences in his book Painted Paragraphs. “It is about the white-hot opening whose glow speaks for a story’s greatest strength: its spirit.”

The above quote inspires me to return repeatedly to my opening line.

Sometimes the hook is perfected during the writing process and sometimes in the editing phase.



The following are examples of hooks from both classic and modern literature.

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.

Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice


Amos Decker would forever remember all three of their violent deaths in the most paralyzing shade of blue.

David Baldacci, Memory Man


Bad things happened in the dark.

Lynette Eason, Lethal Homecoming 


It’s Nathan’s fault I became God.

Andrew Greeley, The God Game


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

C.S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader


Anything could happen while the dead slept.

DiAnn Mills, Deep Extraction


I had never met a king before

Joel Rosenberg, The Third Target


Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.

Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina


You better not never tell nobody but God.

Alice Walker, The Color Purple


Opening sentence hooks draw readers into our stories, but end-of-scene and chapter hooks keep readers turning pages. Why risk readers closing your book when you can tempt them to keep reading? We want readers to lose sleep, ignore dinner preparations, forget to pick up their kids from school, and anything else vying for their attention.

I encourage you to read your hooks aloud and test them on critique partners. Use sensory perception and a generous portion of mystery.

In Mastering Plot – Part III, we’ll discuss point of view and how the viewpoint of the character can shape a powerful story.

Your turn! Share an opening hook from one of your stories!

DiAnn Mills

DiAnn Mills is a bestselling author who believes her readers should expect an adventure. Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists; won two Christy Awards; and been finalists for the RITA, Daphne Du Maurier, Inspirational Readers’ Choice, and Carol award contests. Firewall, the first book in her Houston: FBI series, was listed by Library Journal as one of the best Christian Fiction books of 2014.

DiAnn is a founding board member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, Suspense Sister, and International Thriller Writers. She is co-director of The Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference with social media specialist Edie Melson. She teaches writing workshops around the country. DiAnn is active online and would love to connect with readers on any of the social media platforms listed at

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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