QUIRKY QUILL is for and by young writers and readers, hosted and moderated by me, Sharon Kirk Clifton. Welcome!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Fiction in Baby-Bites~ONE

Hook 'em! Hook 'em good!

Your BFF loves your story idea. Your dad's convinced you're a literary protégé. Grandma's boring her friends at the senior center with stories of your prowess with a pen. You have a plot. You know what's going to happen in the story--kinda, sorta. Now it's time to put that golden pen to the paper (or, more likely, those pink little fingertips to the pc keyboard) and write.

Where to begin. That's the real question. Some smart aleck might say, "At the beginning." That's not the best answer, Mr. Aleck. The beginning can be really boring, full of back-story explanation and description. You can work that in bit by bit later on, but first  hook that reader. Make 'em care. Propel them to read on.

One way to get the job done
 is to plunk them down smack-dab in the middle of the action. (The fancy, writerly term for that is in medias res. That means "in the middle of things. It's Latin.) In other words, something important already has happened. Something so big, the life of the main character (MC) will never be the same.

"How do I write something like that?" you ask. I heard you. Check out first lines and first paragraphs of good books, books that have won awards, books that you really like.

Consider these:

"In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth." Now, that one's from my all-time favorite author: God, a.k.a. Yahweh, etc. Doesn't that line just grab you by the throat? It's simple, easy to understand, and to the point. It makes readers ask, "Then what?" He goes on to tell the then what. The Book is hundreds of pages long, but it's so captivating that we have to read on. What big thing happens? Everything is created by the Book's MC, and nothing will ever be...nothing again.

Here's another:

"Once there were four children whose names were Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy. This story is about something that happened to them when they were sent away from London during the war because of the air-raids." In medias res. The world's at war. The children are in danger from air-borne bombs, and they have to leave all they've ever known, all that's familiar. 

And another:

"That morning, after he discovered the tiger, Rob went and stood under the Kentucky Star Motel sign and waited for the school bus just like it was any other day." We guess that Rob is the MC, and though the line is delivered in a mundane way, a boy's discovering a tiger somewhere near a school bus stop is extraordinary. So then what happens? As a reader, that line hooked me--hooked me good. The book lived up to the promise delivered in that first line. BTW, the author's work has won many awards. 


"'Christmas won't be Christmas without any presents,' grumbled Jo, lying on the rug." What has happened? We don't know yet, except that this Jo is facing a giftless Christmas. (Can she ever endure such horror?)


"My name is India Opal Buloni, and last summer my daddy, the preacher, sent me to the store for a box of macaroni-and-cheese, some white rice, and two tomatoes and I came back with a dog." Is there a big change in the MC's life? Oh, yeah! Will anything ever be the same? Probably not. Is it a good hook line? Uh-huh. Good enough to entice some film producers to turn the award-winning book into one of my favorite movies. Do you know what it is?

It's your turn. 
  • Check out the hook lines of some of your favorite books. Choose the three you like the best, click "Comments," and tell us all.
  • You know the first Book I've mentioned above is the Bible. The others are from what books? If you think you know, click "Comments," and show how brilliant you are.
Read on! Write on!
Because of Christ,
Miz Sharon

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