The Hook and Reel

Who hasn’t heard of the Bulwer-Lytton Awards? Every year, the English Department of San Jose State University runs the contest for the most whimsical opening sentence to the worst of all possible novels. If you haven’t seen the contest, take a moment and read the winners from 2013 – I’ll wait.

And, we’re back.

It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents — except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.” — Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, Paul Clifford (1830)

I’m not sure Mr. Bulwer-Lytton would appreciate his infamy in this modern age.

The first line of your story should have all the notes of an excellent wine, setting the reader up for a journey in flavor and setting.  These sentences can be brief flash or a long and winding path, with the sole purpose of hooking your reader.

The first sentence of Day Seven?

Well crap.

Short, pithy, and concise, a reader understands that nothing good ever happens when the story starts with that stark sentiment.

The most important defense a vampire hunter can have is anonymity. — Bill Blume, author of Tales of a 10th Grade Vampire Hunter

Bill’s opening sentence is another good example of a strong opening.

Your opening doesn’t need to be complicated, it just needs to compel the reader to move on to the next sentence. Then, turn the page.

Bait the hook and reel the reader in.



  • *raises hand* I hadn’t heard of the Bulwer-Lytton awards until now. Thank you for sharing! 😀

    • Glad to be able to share the joy. 🙂 I hope you enjoyed going through the archives. Have a great day!

  • How about “I didn’t know my mom used to be a man until I was eight.” Someday I’ll write that one–it’s too good not to use… 🙂

    • That would be an interesting story. 🙂

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