Write Fiction That Grabs Readers at Page One & Never Lets Them Go
Publish date:

Buy book | Amazon  | BN.com

Image placeholder title

Write Fiction That Grabs Readers at Page One & Never Lets Them Go
by Les Edgerton
Writer's Digest Books, 2007
ISBN 978-1-58297-457-6
$14.99 paperback, 256 pages

Read an Excerpt
Not sure how to get your story started? In Chapter 2, Opening Scenes: An Over view, learn the 10 things that every opening scene must have. From creating a story-worthy problem to foreshadowing, get the tools it takes to hook your readers from page 1. Plus, download a PDF of the Table of Contents and Chapter 2.

About the Book
The road to rejection is paved with bad beginnings. Agents and editors agree: Improper story beginnings are the single biggest barrier to publication. Why? If a novel or short story has a bad beginning, then no one will keep reading. It’s just that simple.

In Hooked, author Les Edgerton draws on his experience as a successful fiction writer and teacher to help you overcome the weak openings that lead to instant rejection by showing you how to successfully use the ten core components inherent to any great beginning. You’ll find:

  • Detailed instruction on how to develop your inciting incident
  • Keys for creating a cohesive story-worthy problem
  • Tips on how to avoid common opening gaffes like overusing backstory
  • A rundown on basics such as opening scene length and transitions
  • A comprehensive analysis of more than twenty great opening lines from novels and short stories

Plus, you’ll discover exclusive insider advice from agents and acquiring editors on what they look for in a strong opening. With Hooked, you’ll have all the information you need to craft a compelling beginning that lays the foundation for an irresistible story!

About the Author
Les Edgerton is the author of Finding Your Voice (Writer’s Digest Books). He also writes short stories, articles, essays, novels, and screenplays. His fiction has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, O. Henry Award, Edgar Allan Poe Award (short story category), Jesse Jones Award, PEN/Faulkner Award, and the Violet Crown Book Award. One of his screenplays was a semifinalist for the Don and Gee Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting Program, a finalist in the Austin Film Festival Heart of Film Screenplay Competition, and a finalist in the Writers Guild’s “Best American Screenplays” Competition. His short fiction has appeared in such publications as Houghton Mifflin’s Best American Mysteries of 2001, Kansas Quarterly, Arkansas Review, North Atlantic Review, Chiron Review, and many others.

Table of Contents

The All-Important Beginning

Why a Book on Beginnings
Beginnings Defined

Story Structure and the Scene
The Evolution of Story Structure
The Modern Story Structure
Scene Basics 101
Opening Scenes vs. Non-Opening Scenes

Opening Scenes: An Overview
The Components of an Opening Scene
The Goals of Openings
Why Potentially Good Beginnings Go Bad

The Inciting Incident, the Initial Surface Problem, and the Story-Worthy Problem
The Inciting Incident
The Inciting Incident as a Trigger
Story-Worthy Problems vs. Surface Problems
Creating Your Story’s Problems and Goals
How Many Problems Should Your Novel Contain?
Your Character’s Awareness of His Own Story-Worthy Problem
Inner Demons: Mining for Story-Worthy Problems

The Setup and Backstory
The Setup
Balancing Setup and Backstory in Your Opening

Combining the Inciting Incident, Story-Worthy Problem, Initial Surface Problem, Setup, and Backstory
Fitting the Pieces Together
Deconstructing a Brilliant Beginning
Putting It All Together in Your Own Work

Introducing Your Characters
Establishing Character From the Start
Opening With Unusual Characters
Opening With Your Character’s Thoughts

Foreshadowing, Language, and Setting
Using Your Opening to Foreshadow Your Story
Economizing Language in Your Openings
Introducing Setting in Your Openings

Great Opening Lines

Red Flag Openers to Avoid
Red Flag 1: Opening With a Dream
Red Flag 2: Opening With an Alarm Clock Buzzing
Red Flag 3: Being Unintentionally Funny
Red Flag 4: Too Little Dialogue
Red Flag 5: Opening With Dialogue

Opening Scene Length and the Use of Transitions
Determining the Right Length for a Story Opening
What Any Opening—Long or Short—Requires
Using Transitions to Anchor Your Opening Scenes

The View From the Agent’s and Editor’s Chair
The Power of Bookscan
Publishing: An Evolving Industry
Agents and Editors Speak Out on Beginnings

Play the Game Forward


Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Chasing Trends

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Chasing Trends

The Writer's Digest team has witnessed many writing mistakes over the years, so this series helps identify them for other writers (along with correction strategies). This week's writing mistake is chasing trends in writing and publishing.

Lessons Learned From Self-Publishing My Picture Book

Lessons Learned From Self-Publishing My Picture Book

Author Dawn Secord shares her journey toward self-publishing a picture book featuring her Irish Setter named Bling.

Poetic Forms

Crown of Sonnets: Poetic Forms

Poetic Form Fridays are made to share various poetic forms. This week, we look at the crown of sonnets, a form that brings together seven sonnets in a special way.

25 Ways Reflective Writing Can Help You Grow as a Writer (and as a Person)

25 Ways Reflective Writing Can Help You Grow as a Writer (And as a Person)

Reflective writing—or journaling—is a helpful practice in helping understand ourselves, and by extensions, the stories we intend to write. Author Jeanne Baker Guy offers 25 ways reflective writing can help you grow as a writer (and as a person).

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Being Followed

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Being Followed

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, let your character know they're being followed.

Amanda Jayatissa: On Spiraling Out in Suspense

Amanda Jayatissa: On Spiraling Out in Suspense

Author Amanda Jayatissa discusses the fun of writing "deliciously mean" characters in her psychological thriller, My Sweet Girl.

3 Tips for Writing a Memoir Everyone Wants to Read

3 Tips for Writing a Memoir Everyone Wants to Read

A memoir is an open window into another's life—and although the truth is of paramount importance, so too is grabbing hold of its reader. Writer Tasha Keeble offers 3 tips for writing a memoir everyone will want to read.

Zoe Whittall: On Personal Change in Literary Fiction

Zoe Whittall: On Personal Change in Literary Fiction

Bestselling and Giller Prize-shortlisted author Zoe Whittal discusses the complexity of big life decisions in her new novel, The Spectacular.

Poetry Prompt

Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 582

Every Wednesday, Robert Lee Brewer shares a prompt and an example poem to get things started on the Poetic Asides blog. This week, write a transition poem.