Amish Aliens Stole My Baby

Not really, but sure grabbed your attention, eh? And that’s the point of this post.

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?

Actually, no.

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.

Warm Fuzzies

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.

Trendy Tidbit

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.

Opposites Attract

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).

11 Replies to “Amish Aliens Stole My Baby”

  1. My book “unprotected” was just released this month. First line is a quote from an angry mother who just had get children taken away. Said to her social worker, our protagonist: “you think you’re pretty hot s— don’t you? All tripped up on power like you’re queen of the f—ing world.”

  2. Michelle—all good advice. It’s increasingly difficult to create “shock and awe” when everyone else is doing the same thing. I think what should make us stand out from other writers is our content–that we actually present deep, moving, compelling content that will open closets in our reader’s hearts and help them become wiser people. If we can promise that—and fulfill it—we’ll gain readers. Thanks for your post!

  3. I’ve rewritten my first line so many times, I had to open my manuscript to see what I’d left it as last. Good grief! (btw, I welcome suggestions)

    “I last attended worship service on Sunday, September 24, 1972 when I was eight.”

    I enjoyed this post, especially the title. Thanks, Michelle.

  4. I clicked on the title because of the implied fun. So much doom and gloom these days that any headline that promises a humorous touch catches my attention. Add that you followed through with a post that was short, well organized and had specific takeaways made this a winner all around. Thanks!

  5. I hear voices. Loud. Incessant. And very real. Which basically gives me two options: choke back massive amounts of Prozac or write fiction. I chose the latter. Way cheaper. I’ve been writing since I discovered blank wall space and Crayolas. I seek to glorify God in all that I write…except for that graffiti phase I went through as a teenager. Oops. Did I say that out loud?

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