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Thursday, March 19, 2015

Hooking Your Readers With Beginnings ~ by Deborah M. Piccurelli

After years of reading books and watching movies with an element of romance, Deborah M. Piccurelli’s desire to write romance novels came naturally. She is active in her church and is an advocate for sanctity of life. Deborah is the author of two novels and several cause-related newspaper articles. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, and the New Jersey Society of Christian Writers. As one of the winners in a contest by The Christian Authors Show, details of Deborah’s writing journey can be found in the 2013-2014 edition of the book, 50 Great Writers You Should Be Reading. Deborah lives in New Jersey with her husband and their two sons.
NR: Leave a comment for Deborah and be entered in a drawing for her new book, Love Comes Calling. US residents, only, please.


When you go to the store to buy a book, what’s the first thing you see about all the books on the shelves?

If you answered “the title,” you’re correct. Titles are the very first thing we see, and is what will catch our attention enough to want to pick up that book—or not. So, as writers, we want to make sure we have a catchy title.

Let me give you some examples of titles I find appealing (some are movies) and why:

The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren (Who doesn’t want to have a purpose for living?)

A Passion Most Pure by Julie Lessman (The title is so provocative, especially for a Christian novel. We simply must find out what this book is about.)

In a Heartbeat by Sally John (Uh-oh. Something very bad is going to happen very quickly.)

Slumdog Millionaire the movie (What? Contradiction in terms. We must find out about the title character.)

The Prayers of Agnes Sparrow by Joyce Magnin (What happens when Agnes prays?)

The Unlikely Bride by Debra Ullrick (Sounds like a “fish-out-of-water” story. And who doesn’t love brides?)

The River Wild the movie (Bound to be a wild ride.)

Those are only a few. But I’m sure you can see how having an eye catching, interesting title that raises questions about the story, and gives a clue of what to expect from it is important.

There are two other items to consider for hooking readers before I go on to what an author can control early on. One is cover art, which doesn’t directly apply to this article, because if you are traditionally published, you may have some input, but the ultimate decision is up to the publisher. On the other hand, self-publishing has become an emerging trend, and if you are independent enough to be doing that, then you are experienced enough to know how to choose a cover.

The other detail I can’t expound on here, is the back cover blurb, because that could take an article of its own. So, I’m going to move on to another beginning hook: The first sentence.

As we all know, the first sentence should immediately draw the reader in and raise more questions about the story and characters. Examples follow:

This has to be a nightmare. (The Unlikely Wife by Debra Ullrick)

Flames licked higher, swallowing everything in their path. (When the Smoke Clears by Lynette Eason)

Martha had an iron rod where most people had a backbone. (Gingham Mountain by Mary Connealy)

She would be working for her sister’s killer. (Hush, Little Baby by Deborah M. Piccurelli – Me!)

As you can see, each first sentence also gives you an idea what kind of story you’re reading, and what to expect from it.

At this point, knowing the titles of these books, and having read their first lines, ask yourself if you feel compelled to keep reading.

The next beginning would be the first page. If you’ve passed the test of the first two beginnings, you’ve got a good chance your reader is pretty much hooked into the story. But to keep her hooked, you must have some kind of action right off the bat that will make her want to go on to the next page, and the next.

From here on out, you’re going to have to keep that action going, escalating more and more to move your story forward, and pulling the reader in so deep, he “just can’t put your book down.” When that happens, and you keep hearing people say it, time and again, you can be satisfied you’ve done your job as an author.


The day new Christian, Derek Spencer, shows up on Charlie Parkes’s doorstep to make up for what he’d done, is the very day he falls in love with her. But Charlie’s sister mistakes him for a home improvement contractor, and he decides to play along until he finds a way to reveal who he really is.

Charlie is attracted to Derek, but knows the attention he pays her is only flattery. How could such a great-looking guy fall for someone with a face like hers? Nevertheless, the two form a relationship that brings a joy to Charlie that’s way beyond her wildest dreams.

But what will happen when Derek’s true identity is revealed


  1. Deborah, this is spot-on advice about hooking the reader. An opening sentence can make me buy the book or put it back on the shelf.

  2. Excellent advice and practical examples! Thank you for sharing!

  3. Yes, Ane, I have to say an opening sentence does the same for me.

    Norma and Sparks of Ember, thanks for stopping by to read my tips, and thank you for your encouraging words.

  4. A helpful post with great examples!

  5. Thanks, Sara! I'm so glad you found my post helpful. Thank you for stopping by to read it.

  6. If anyone here that's on Facebook is interested, I am hosting a FB book launch party on April 10th. If you contact me at, I'll provide you with the link for the page where the party will be held.


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