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Has opening a story with something like "I hurtled to my death", "I had destroyed the earth", or other outlandish statements like these become cliché? And if so, what are some alternative methods to hook readers?

  • The nature of a hook is something that makes the reader read the next line. They only need to go as far as the next line, because that next line makes them read the paragraph. Which makes them read the next paragraph. Which makes them read the chapter. And so on. The essence of a hook is something that makes your reader ask himself a question. If you can do this, they will naturally want to know the answer, and so read more. 'Outlandish statements' is merely one way of doing this. – Thomas Reinstate Monica Myron Feb 16 '16 at 6:45
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Depending on the tone of your book, you can make that work for you by making subsequent text sarcastic, funny, meta, or the intro to a flashback.

I had destroyed the earth. Okay, it was just a bit of dirt in a test tube. And I didn't really destroy it; I just washed it down the drain. Fine, I was cleaning up after my lab partner. Yes, she ditched me. Again.

 

I hurtled to my death. This one would probably hurt a bit more than the last three; Reichenbach Falls was taller than the roof of the hospital. Still, there was nothing for it but to wait until I hit, regenerated, and woke up at the beginning of the next story. What pastiche writers lacked in originality they certainly made up for in persistence.

 

I had destroyed the earth. At last. A ragged cheer rose from the survivors behind me, growing and swelling until the air was so thick with hosannas and applause and shouts of relief that I thought I might go deaf. And if you think that sounds strange, you should hear how I got here.

 

"I have destroyed the earth! And now I will go on to wipe out the sun! And the —" Gorbo's ranting was cut short by a quick blast from Captain Amazing's laser pistol. "I hate it when they brag," she grumbled.

And so on. If you can't rewrite the cliché, subvert it.

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  • @TommyMyron Thanks! I always wonder if anyone is going to get my slightly obscure metas. ;) – Lauren-Clear-Monica-Ipsum Feb 16 '16 at 1:57
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Readers are not hooked by outlandish openings. Readers are hooked by character, story, and setting. You can introduce a character, story, or setting in an outlandish way. (See Steinbeck's introduction to Monterey in Cannery Row for an example.) But it will hook or not hook depending on its effectiveness in establishing character, story, or setting, not merely by being outlandish.

Cliche only becomes a problem when it becomes a substitute for effective storytelling, when it feels like the author has reached into a bag of stock language because they had not the skill or the patience to think through and thoroughly imagine the scene, the story, the character, or the setting.

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You want to start a tale with an outlandish statement? Go ahead. Just listen to your heart, write and complete it. Now, if the whole story feels 'unoriginal', then you can make some changes. Write first, then rewrite and rewrite until you are satisfied.

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