Get Hooked On Writing!

Issue # 1 Tuesday, May 5, 1998

This Week's Author:

Shara Rendell-Smock, author Contributing Editor Shara Rendell-Smock has written more than twenty computer software manuals, numerous newspaper articles, including a monthly health column for The Sarasota Herald-Tribune, and a weekly column for the Sideroad - "Go to Health! Because Life's Too Short.

She's the author of two books of non-fiction: Getting Hooked: Fiction's Opening Sentences 1950's- 1990's


Living With Big Cats: The Story of Jungle Larry, Safari Jane, and David Tetzlaff

For ordering information, click here.

To read more about these books visit

Next Week's Author:

Next week Jacqui Bennett contributes a column about characterization. (Jacqui Bennett Writers Bureau is a friendly critique, editorial and advisory service for writers in all genres.


Hooked on Opening Sentences

What grabs the reader? That first sentence. It either hooks the reader or leaves him uninterested in the entire book.

Sex has always sold, whether it was the subtle approach of the '50s or the more in-your-face statements of current years. In 1951, Bruno Fischer began a mystery novel The Lady Kills with this: "The first time I saw the publisher's daughter she wore slippers and a couple of scant strips of black cloth and a cigarette."

Opening sentences also tend to have gotten shorter over the years. Brevity creates our contemporary abrupt, startling approach: "I never was a virgin." (Susan Isaacs, Lily White, 1996)

Many viewpoints from decades ago are as fresh today. No, it's stronger than that; "Most people won't even open the door when someone rings their bell." That opened Harold Q. Masur's 1952 mystery So Rich, So Lovely and So Dead. That's a staggering amount of mistrust for 46 years ago, isn't it?

In my book, Getting Hooked: Fiction's Opening Sentences 1950s-1990s, I categorized opening sentences by decade and by genre. Each decade from 1950 to the 1990s has a sampling of the best openers from Mystery, Science Fiction, Western, Romance, and Mainstream novels.

In the weeks ahead, I will follow up this column with one about popular subjects covered in first sentences from 1950 to today. Common themes include animals, health, love, money, work, politics, police, psychology, and Mother Nature.

Beginnings and endings can take as much work as what comes in the middle.

Jacqui Bennett head of Jacqui Bennett Writers Bureau ( ) points out, "Endings too, should be crafted with as much care and attention to detail as openings. Linger over them, savour them and never rush them. Aim to leave your readers with a sense of having just finished something worthwhile, so that they come to the end of your story with a sigh of satisfaction - and it remains in their minds long afterwards. If this happens, you have truly done a good job."

Help make this a success, and gain exposure for your work by contributing an article to Getting Hooked.

Here are few of the rewards:

  1. Exposure. Plain and simple. (Try 13,000 unique visitors and 17,000 est. page views in 26 weeks. We had 1,000 visitor last week alone, and that was our first and only "repeat" week, with no new columns posted at all!)
  2. Links to your site (if you have a site) or some of your other articles on-line. Or links to your books if they're on-line in,, or elsewhere.
  3. You get to keep the web design when you're finished. Want to move it to your personal site after the fact? It's all yours.
  4. You keep all copyrights. We'll edit your work only as necessary to make sure you come across perfectly.

It's strictly a volunteer effort, on everybody's part. That's the kind of pleasure I've gotten out of the Sideroad. ('Course, it never hurts to have a finger on cutting edge media, either.)

And you never know who may be reading. An agent approached me when he read a feature of mine at another organization's site.

Part of the original Sideroad. Text © 1998, Shara Rendell-Smock.
The new Sideroad is now receiving traffic at

Shara's books can be ordered from her web site at