When we open a book and begin to read, our emotions immediately engage with the words, characters and settings. These beginnings are reminders of past experiences, hopes, daydreams, even old fears. They provide vivid mental pictures.
As writers, we’re often told to provide a hook for the readers that will keep them reading. This started me thinking about books that ‘hooked’ me at the very beginning. One such book is Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe. It was published decades ago, but continues to show up among readers’ favorites, certainly one of mine.
The very first word in the book is the name of the main character, Okonkwo. Over the first three paragraphs we learn he is a man of power and influence in his village, with a large compound comprising three wives and many children. With the author’s words a picture of him begins to emerge in our minds of a tall muscular man with attitude. Briefly we learn he has a beef with his father, even though, at this point, we don’t know the reason, but the author has aroused our interest. We want to know more. In these paragraphs we also begin to see the nature of Okonkwo’s culture which adds to our interest in his story.