I had the pleasure of hosting Mary Buckham on the Writers at Play blog and learned so much from her. Mary is an award-winning romantic-suspense author and a sought-after speaker and writing craft teacher for both online and in live presentations throughout the United States and Canada . Her non-fiction plotting book, BREAK INTO FICTION® with author Dianna Love is currently available for pre-order and will hit the shelves June 18, 2009. For more on Mary go to www.MaryBuckham.com or www.BreakIntoFiction.com

Having worked with thousands of writers over the years, of all genres, Mary shares her talent with other writers through workshops for reader groups, conferences, and library visits. Workshops on How to plot a novel or How to plot a bigger and stronger novel. Openings that pack a punch! Translating Body Language to the Page. Body Language and Emotion. PACING: How To Create A Page Turner. SEX BETWEEN THE PAGES: UNDERSTANDING AND CRAFTING SEXUAL TENSION, and many more.

Mary explained that most people look at the book cover, read the back cover blurb, then open the book and read the first sentence. If they like that first sentence, they would read the whole first paragraph.

Let’s play a game that Mary Buckham taught us in one of her classes.

I will post here ten hooks from different books without mentioning the authors.

Notice I use only the first sentence, because the editors often don’t need more to judge a book.

These hooks are taken from historicals, paranormal, sweet romances, medical romances, romantic suspense, erotica, westerns, ebooks...

Choose those that you like.

1—The weight of her new engagement ring seemed to slow Celeste Bennet’s steps to a rhythmic thud as she crossed Fifth Avenue.

2-The worst part about killing someone was planning exactly how to do it.

3-As soon as he stripped naked, he’d be hers.

4-“Tomb robbers!” The words roared throughout the immense stone chamber.

5-I’ll stand before God before I lie under Maxwell Summner!

6- Jillian Burton had convinced herself she needed this assignment, needed it badly enough to brave the wintry chill and the icy wind, needed it even more than the sick children expecting her medical expertise.

7-Victoria Sorenson wasn’t about to let the fact that she was a married woman spoil this night’s celebration—not when she’d seen her husband of thirteen years for perhaps only ninety minutes in total.

8-We dare you to kiss the baddest boy at Western High,” Suzi said, wicked glee coating her words.

9-If I’d known running away would be this hot and this dirty, I’d have stayed home.

10-They say you don’t know when your life changes.

Now, tell us which you like and why? Would you buy the book? You can choose as many as you like.

If you have favorite hooks from different authors, please share.

Online class: May 10 - 23, 2009


by Mary Buckham
Registration $35
at www.MaryBuckham.com/


* The ingredients of a page-turner
* What hooks are and how to maximize them
* Great beginnings & endings that have your readers wanting more!
* How to rework YOUR openings


  1. Mary Marvella // May 8, 2009 at 2:10 AM  

    Hey, Mona! I like 3 & 9.

    Great job of telling us about a kickass teacher, Mary B! Her words are gold.

  2. Judy // May 8, 2009 at 7:51 AM  

    I have to say I liked them all, but then, opening a book, looking at the first page, excited to begin another "adventure" is a highlight of reading for me. And these openings all had a hook for different kinds of stories. Thanks!

  3. Edie // May 8, 2009 at 9:26 AM  

    They were all good, but I'll pick 5, 7 and 9 just because they seemed to be the kind of books I like to read. And I did like the voice. :)

  4. Carly Carson // May 8, 2009 at 10:57 AM  

    I agree they were all good. But the ones that intrigued me the most were 2, 8, 9 and to a slightly lesser extent, 1 and 7. I would never buy on one line though. If you had a large enough poll, they'd all be picked by someone.


  5. Anne Carrole // May 8, 2009 at 11:19 AM  

    I liked 2, 5, 9 & 10. Interesting to see the diversity of opinions from everyone who has commented. so far, it seems 9 may be the only one with a consensus--be interesting to see going forward. Love Mary's classes.

  6. Helen Hardt // May 8, 2009 at 12:21 PM  

    Hi Mona, great post! I liked 2 and 3. Though they're obviously completely different genres, they're both short and to the point. I'd definitely read on.

  7. Mary Ricksen // May 8, 2009 at 12:23 PM  

    You helped me with the hook for my second book so I know how important all it is.
    Mighty useful information Mona!
    I'm with Helen on the picks.

  8. lisekimhorton // May 8, 2009 at 1:02 PM  

    OK, I've got 4 that I like, for different reasons:

    1. Not particularly fond of the exact wording, but what the sentence conveys is distinct and tells a lot to plunge you right into the story of what is wrong with Celeste's life!
    2. I like this because the author hits the ground running. Definite hook material. And it also has a bit of a humorous sound - to me - that says the story may be going to have a touch of lightness to it.
    5. I love this line. Gives us a character we know has spunk, right off the mark, and lets us know that Summner will figure prominently in the tale, be he the good guy or the bad.
    9. MY FAVORITE - Humor, self-deprecation and, once again, plunges me right into the midst of the protagonist's predicament.

    Great little exercise! I love first lines- always have. My favorite of all time, though, that is definitely a hard one. Probably "Scarlett O'Hara was not beautiful but men seldom realized it when caught by her charm.

  9. Stacey Kayne // May 8, 2009 at 1:21 PM  

    Hi Mona! Thanks for sharing these fab highlights with the rest of us! Love the excercise.

    I find I'm quite partial to 5 :)

    9 cracks me up and reels me in. Always love a heroine with a sense of humor--and that has got to be the heroine. Real heoes thrive in dust and sweat ;-)

  10. Judi Romaine // May 8, 2009 at 1:24 PM  

    #1 and #10 (Love Mary and her great games) - some of those lines would make me drop them like hot potatoes in a game of tag. But there are a few that definitely had me - lynn romaine (Long Run Home due out 09/18/90 0 www.ecosuspense.blogspot.com)

  11. Mona Risk // May 8, 2009 at 2:30 PM  

    Keep them coming, ladies. I'm hoping that Mary Buckham will find a minute to stop by.

    I read all these books and love them. They are very different in genre. So as Mary Buckham said it in a different post there is no correct or uncorrect answer. It's a matter of taste in books.

  12. Mary Ricksen // May 8, 2009 at 2:30 PM  

    Which ones do you like Mona?

  13. Paisley Kirkpatrick // May 8, 2009 at 3:31 PM  

    They are all great, Mona, but my favorite is No. 10. Youre right Mry is fantastic as a teacher.

  14. Scarlet Pumpernickel // May 8, 2009 at 5:52 PM  

    Liked them all. Being indecisive. Can't pick one! Mary is always very informative and her workshops are wonderful.


  15. Mary Buckham // May 8, 2009 at 6:05 PM  

    Hi Mona and fellow writers ~~

    One of the keys to a great hook is the sheer number of readers who fall for it without knowing anything about the author or the genre or the subgenre. So if a hook snags the attention of readers of mysteries as well as readers of romance and readers of paranormals -- then the potential audience for that story grows. The hook is just the beginning of a great story but without it --a reader can stop before they ever discover the reast of the story!

    Cheers ~~ Mary B

  16. McKenna Chase // May 8, 2009 at 7:13 PM  

    Mona, great blog. I know, having entered tons of writing contests, how important opening lines can be. Yours are great examples.

    Here's one from my newly released HER BIG BAD WOLF...
    If only Granny and the Woodsman hadn’t returned early from their date...

    And a few more from various authors I've read...

    The man behind the cluttered desk looked like the devil, and Nell Dysart figured that was par for her course since she'd been going to hell for a year and a half anyway. - Jennifer Crusie - FAST WOMEN

    Daughters are a plague upon men. - Sabrina Jeffries - BEWARE A SCOT'S REVENGE

    He was standing on the wrong end of the shotgun. - Sarah McCarty - PROMISES REVEAL


  17. Mona Risk // May 8, 2009 at 8:46 PM  

    McKenna, CONGRATULATIONS on your first release. How exciting. Great hook line for her BIG BAD WOLF.

  18. Mona Risk // May 8, 2009 at 8:46 PM  

    Mary, our dear mentor, thank you for stopping with more food for thought.

  19. Mona Risk // May 8, 2009 at 8:49 PM  

    Scarlet and Mary Ricksen, I like them all. They come from really good books, one from a NY bestseller and some from well-known and much-loved authors.

  20. Mona Risk // May 8, 2009 at 8:50 PM  

    Stacey, I'm delighted you stopped by. Don't I have taste in my hooks?

  21. Mona Risk // May 8, 2009 at 8:51 PM  

    LiseKimHorton, thank you for your in-depth explanation on why you like #4. Very interesting.

  22. Mona Risk // May 8, 2009 at 8:53 PM  

    Helen, Anne, Carly, Edie, Judy, Mary M. Thank you all for playing. It shows that we may have different taste but we can recognize a good book.

  23. Janice Lynn // May 8, 2009 at 11:37 PM  

    Mona, love them all!! I've read several of those books!! & loved them. Too difficult to pick just one that's my fav though.

  24. Ann Whitaker // May 9, 2009 at 7:40 PM  

    I picked 5, 7, and 9 BEFORE I read Edie's comment. Same reason. The voice. Clever. Funny.

  25. Joanne // May 11, 2009 at 9:05 AM  

    Mary Buckham is a wonderful teacher. I subscribe to her newsletter, and Margie Lawson's, every month.