“The importance of the first line or the opening paragraph or even the first chapter is to hook the reader in.” Mrs. Terris stated pacing in the front of the classroom. She held up the current book they were reading in their creative writing class. She was a firm believer that people needed to read a lot in order to write, but Jane didn’t necessarily think that was always the case. Sure, reading helped, but she didn’t believe it was a requirement to write well.
Needless to say, Jane didn’t expect her first creative writing class in college to be like this. She had expected to learn the craft of writing and test it out for herself through writing her own short stories and maybe even begin a novel or try out poetry or something. Instead, they were reading novels and then discussing what makes them so good. The thing was, Jane didn’t care for most of the stories her professor picked out so she wasn’t learning much.
“I want you guys to pick out a sentence or two from the opening the chapter that you believe was the hook to get you to read more.” Mrs. Terris explained further.
Jane sighed. This better not be an essay assignment.
“Just write a quick paragraph about why that phrase hooked you into reading more of the book.” Mrs. Terris explained.
Jane stared at her copy of the book sitting on the corner of her desk. She didn’t like the book. She only kept reading because she had to do it for homework. If she had found that book in the bookstore herself, she would have read the back blurb and put it back on the shelf not giving it another thought.
So, she rose her hand.
“What if you didn’t like the book?” she asked bluntly.
Half the class turned their heads to look at her while the other half looked onward at their professor, curious about her reaction. Mrs. Terris looked at her puzzled and held up the book higher for her to see – as if Jane as mistaken or thinking about something different.
“Jane, this is a classic.” Mrs. Terris stated.
“Yeah, and?” Jane replied. “I didn’t like it. It wasn’t an entertaining read for me and I didn’t get anything out of it.”
Mrs. Terris paused for a brief moment. She put the book down on her desk and leaned her back against it. She looked at the class with a curious gaze. “Is there anyone else who didn’t care for the book?”
A few of Jane’s classmates slowly raised their hands, scanning the rest of the classroom. It was almost as if they were afraid to voice their opinion about such a classic tale.
Mrs. Terris nodded. “Okay, that’s fair. The thing with reading books is that everyone is entitled to their own opinion and we all interpret the words differently. That’s why, as an author, accepting rejection is a key piece to being a writer.”
Jane straightened in her seat. She was aiming to be an author, that’s why she took creative writing classes. So far, Mrs. Terris has just analyzed other stories. She felt as though she had just opened a can of worms but it might be in her favor this time around.
“With that said,” Mrs. Terris continued, “if you enjoyed the book, I want you to do the assignment I just said. Pick a sentence or two from the first chapter that hooked you into reading more of the story and write a paragraph or why that phrase worked. If you didn’t enjoy the book, I want you to choose a sentence or two in the first chapter that you believe was meant to be the hook and then write a paragraph about why it didn’t work for you. Or why the first chapter as a whole didn’t pull you in.
“Then,” Mrs. Terris continued on, “I’d like you all to take the sentence that you choose and use that as a first sentence to write your own story. How would you use that phrase differently to hook your readers into your own story?”
A boy in the back of the class raised his hand. “Does it have to be the very first sentence of the story?”
Mrs. Terris teetered her head for a moment. “No, I suppose not. Fit the sentence into your story where you see fit. Just make sure it’s early enough in the story.”
Jane grinned as she wrote down the assignment. She was thankful to finally have a creative writing assignment in her creative writing class. This was what she was expecting.
This was certainly an assignment she felt confident in doing.