Writing Tip: Hook the Reader in the First Line

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You don’t have much time. You need to work fast. Your article or book or whatever it is you are writing to engage a reader/ audience must tease them from the get-go so that they are craving s’more.

I recently spoke to a business group in Newburyport, MA. I spoke about how to get your reader’s attention. I started out my talk with the first line in an article I wrote that was published in Salon.com and reprinted in Working Mother magazine 35th anniversary a few months back. Here is a link. The first line is a hook and bait. Here it is: I didn’t mean to put the tampons in my seven-year-old son’s backpack.



Remember, you must come up with something clever, funny, gripping, frightening, shocking, intriguing…. And it must be well-written. Have fun with your ideas.  I come up with my first line or first paragraph (or ledes, in journalism it is called a lede, not a lead) while running or walking the beach. Or driving. Make your words dance.

Writing Tip from Murder, She Wrote

Okay, so you have probably heard that writers often write about what they know.

When I co-authored Rum & Razors, the second Murder, She Wrote novel I wrote with my father, Donald Bain, I opened the book up with an experience that happened to my mother, Jackie, and father, when I was about nine.

Jessica Fletcher’s experience parallels what my parents experienced. It was actually very frightening and my parents had to call in the FBI to our house! It was a scary time because my dad was involved in writing a controversial book about the CIA and model Candy Jones and so we thought we were being targeted. I wasn’t allowed to walk to and from school or hang out outside. Turns out it was a prank created by good friends of my parents through a community theatre group they were involved with in Westbury, NY, on Long Island

The point is this: I used a real life experience in the opening pages of the Murder, She Wrote novel. Fun, right?

Write about what you know. Yes. Go for it!

Below is a link to the scene in Rum & Razors. Enjoy! You will learn that GLOTCOYB in Rum & Razors stands for Good Luck On The Completion of Your Book. But in the real-life episode in my house, it stood for Good Luck On The Completion of Your Basement, because my father was renovating the basement in our small modest house. Crazy.

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Sisters in Crime Writers Blog Hop. What is Your Writing Process?


I was honored to be asked by the talented and beautiful Connie Johnson Hambley (http://thecharitythriller.blogspot.com/) to participate in the Sisters in Crime September Blog Hop (http://www.sistersincrime.org/BlogHop.) I am posting this on my new blog, travelflavors.com but will also repost on my NYC blog, bigappledippedincaramel.wordpress.com.


First, I will tell you a little bit about myself.

My father, Donald Bain, wrote Coffee, Tea or Me? when I was seven years old. The book made the New York Times bestseller list for an entire year. I wasn’t allowed to tell anyone that my father wrote it. He was the ghostwriter for two fictitious stewardesses, Trudy Baker and Rachel Jones. I was so embarrassed by Coffee, Tea or Me? I wasn’t quite sure why it was a big secret that my father wrote the book or, even more confusing, why my dad was pretending to be a woman, or worse, two women but I was very happy to keep the secret. Today, I’m very proud that my dad wrote it. Not only did I become a writer but, perhaps inspired by Coffee, Tea or Me?, I fell in love with the travel industry and have made my living as a travel writer and editor, crisscrossing the globe on assignment for almost two decades.

I am the author and collaborating author of several books, non-fiction and fiction. I wrote The Unofficial Guide to New England and New York with Kids (Wiley & Sons), New York City With Kids (Open Road/Simon & Schuster), New York City Made Easy (Open Road/Simon & Schuster), Best of Boston with Kids and Teens, Family-Friendly Restaurants in NYC, Cape Cod in a Clamshell and others. In addition, I am a contributing author to Peter Walsh’s How to Organize Just About Anything. In fiction, I co-authored several Murder, She Wrote books (Manhattans and Murder, Rum and Razors and Three Strikes, You’re Dead.) And I recently published my first kid’s novel, Catcher in the Sky. I am currently working on new non-fiction and fiction book projects.

I have also written many travel, lifestyle, dining and parenting articles for newspapers, magazines and websites.  I am a contributing writer to the Boston Globe, CNN, drivethedistrict.com and have been published in Boston Magazine, New England Travel, Woman’s Day, The New York Daily News, The New York Times, Time Out New York, New York Post, New York Daily News, Boston Herald, Parents, Parenting, Sesame Street Parents and many more. I was the travel editor for ten years at Bridal Guide magazine in NYC. I also covered NYC for Travelchannel.com, Travelmuse.com and Nearsay.com. I started out as an investigative reporter/intern with syndicated columnist Jack Anderson in Washington, DC.

Enough about me. And, now, to the Sisters in Crime Blog Hop.

Sisters in Crime: What’s the best part of the writing process for you? What’s the most challenging?

The best part of the writing process depends on what I am writing. As a journalist, the challenge is that you must make the copy sing but at the same time you better have all your facts correct. When writing fiction, I find that in many ways it is less challenging than non-fiction because I can be as creative as I want (and it is so cool how the ideas and characters take shape and often come out of nowhere, like a stream of consciousness). I don’t have to worry about misquoting someone or not having enough sources. There is something very freeing about that.

The most challenging part of the process–non-fiction and fiction–is making the words jump, fly, dance and sing. But it is also the fun part of writing. Otherwise, it can be such a bore. I think this applies to many areas of life–in fact, before my son’s baseball games, I have always told him, and still do, to remember to fly and dance out there, make it fun, give it all you got. I think we can do this with words, too.

And, whether writing non-fiction or fiction, for me, the writing process actually involves way more than sitting in front of my laptop. The writing process takes place while walking the beach, driving the car, sipping coffee in a local coffee shop, and reading, too. I am always writing–even when I am not.

I would like to ask one of my long-time writer friends, Rona Gindin (http://blog.ronagindin.com/) to join the September blog hop at Sisters in Crime.

Thank you again, Connie!