Calm down. I hear you. You’re a novel writer, not a journalist. Why should you care about catchy headlines? Isn’t that a lame gimmick better left to the National Enquirer?
Mastering the art of grabbing the reader’s attention is a valuable skill every writer should hone.
In case you haven’t noticed, the written word is exploding from one end of the spectrum to another, from e-books to self-published hard copies to blogs. Getting your work to stand out from the crowd is more important than ever.
Which begs the question: How does one grab a reader by the throat? There are many ways, but here are a few to toss into your writerly toolbox:
Shock and Awe
This is one of the tactics I employed with my blog post title. Think controversial. Think stunning. Think outside the box. This method is most often used by rabble-rousers who get a secret thrill out of rattling cages.
If you start off with something everyone can relate to on an emotional level, you’ll draw in the human side of the reader. It’s a pull that’s hard to resist. In my example, I tossed in the word baby. Emotions are what set us apart from the rest of the mammals. Well, that and opposable thumbs.
The ol’ People magazine approach, naming what’s hip or what’s not. Naturally this works better for contemporaries than historicals…but not always. Amish is a buzzword right now, which is why I chose it for my post title.
Jumbo shrimp. Government intelligence. Amish aliens. Put two incongruous words together, and if they’re not cliché, people will sit up and take notice.
Now then, where to employ these attention grabbing strategies? Obviously your entire manuscript can’t be outrageously intense. You’d burn out your brain and your reader would gasp for air. Nevertheless, there are key areas that require some eye-popping fancy footwork. These are:
– The first sentence of a book…better yet, make that the first sentence of every chapter.
– The last sentence of each chapter. Force your reader to turn the page.
– Back cover copy. Often this is where you reel ‘em in or break the deal.
– The one-liner that sums up your entire novel.
So go ahead. Give this a whirl. Don’t be afraid to stand out from the crowd, especially when it comes to your writing. Hopefully you’ll attract the attention of an editor, not an Amish Alien.
And if you’re brave enough, share with us your re-written stunning first line of your current project (fiction or non-fiction).