Coming up with the perfect novel introduction is far from a simple task. A universal formula doesn’t exist. An introduction that will work for one type of novel will definitely be inappropriate for another one. Still, you can rely on a few techniques and well-established practices to make your next novel a success right from the first page.
Books that are hard to get into rank among the ones abandoned most frequently. This could be one of the reasons why classics like Moby Dick and Lord of the Rings rank among the books that people give up on the most.
More than 46 percent of the Goodreads members interviewed in the survey reported that they gave up a book due to the fact that it was too slow and boring. Nearly 16 percent reported that they’d abandon a book within the first 50 pages if they’re not satisfied. These numbers only come to demonstrate the importance of a good introduction that captivates the reader right from the start. If people are engaged and they’d like to find out more, chances are that they’ll continue reading.
Here are some top tips for hooking readers with your introduction:
Get into the Story Right from the Start
Being too vague or writing an intro describing events 20 years before the action in the novel begins is far from a winning approach. While this one may work on occasions because it will make people curious, most of the time such an intro will simply be perceived as annoying.
Vague writing is weak and it robs the story of potency right from the start. Empty words and lengthy descriptions may be used to fill the pages but they will accomplish just one thing – they’ll get the reader so bored that the book will be abandoned before the action begins.
Instead of trying to be sneaky and mysterious, get right into it. Such an approach tells potential readers exactly what they’re getting into. If they like the concept from the start, chances are that the readers will finish the entire novel.
Learn from the Masters
Study your favorite books to get a better idea about what works and what misses the mark. This is one of the best approaches newbies can rely on in order to sharpen their skills.
Study first lines in novels and their impact. “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” This excellent example from Pride and Prejudice demonstrates just how much power a single sentence can possess. The same applies to “I am an invisible man.” The opener of The Invisible Man is straightforward and it paints a complete picture as soon as the book is opened.
Do your analysis as a reader rather than a writer. Why does the respective sentence or paragraph engage? Does it provoke an emotional response? Most importantly, does it make you want to read the rest of the story? If so, why? The more you read and analyze stellar examples of literature, the better writer you’ll become.
Know What It Takes to Hook the Reader
The human brain is wired to respond in specific ways to certain types of information. If you have some knowledge of these mechanisms, you can put together a killer introduction.
Readers go through books for three main reasons – to find out what happens next, to be entertained and to get some useful information from the pages. If you can trigger any of these three in the first pages, you will get the reader hooked.
Good introductions accomplish two things. They present the current situation and they also suggest what could be in the future. There’s promise of change and development. These two are the most important components of effective storytelling, regardless of the genre and even the type of writing material you’re attempting to create.
This suggestion works both for fiction and non-fiction writers. The introduction makes a promise and it hints at how fulfillment is going to be achieved. The reader will keep on going but it’s very important to keep the promise made in the intro. If you fail, a person will simply abandon the book later on.
If Necessary, Give Some Background
Depending on the subject matter, the reader may need some background information to make sense of the situation. Don’t skip the important details and explanations for the sake of brevity. Very often, they will put things in context and give the reader the facts that will tie things together and make the situation easier to comprehend.
Are you writing about a specific war? You may want to give readers some information about the circumstances that contributed to it and the stances of the parties involved. Even if you’re describing a historical event, you should not assume that the reader has some knowledge of it.
Background information runs contrary to the brevity rule, which is why we’ve mentioned that a universal formula doesn’t exist. Sometimes, brevity will lead to confusion. Sometimes, background details will make the introduction smoother and easier to read. It’s up to you to determine which approach will work better for the story you’re trying to tell.
Don’t be afraid to experiment and explore different writing styles. Test a few approaches to identify the one you feel most comfortable with. If your gut is telling you that the respective writing style is the right one, you will get a good outcome even if you’re breaking the rules.