From Wikipedia: The rule of three is a principle in writing which suggests that things that come in threes are inherently funnier, more satisfying, or more effective than other numbers of things. The reader is also more likely to consume information if it is written in groups of threes. A series of three is often used to create a progression in which tension is created, then built up, and finally released.
Most of us, as writers, have heard this rule. Now let's put a twist on it, and apply it to the first three lines in our novels. Do our first three sentences: "create a progression in which tension is created, then built up, and finally released?"
Yes, it's our first line which has to hook an agent/editor's attention. But say we write a great first line, and let them down with the second one. Will they read on? My theory is, tie those first three sentences together ... hold the reader through them -- with voice, tension, and a revelation/release that will leave them emotionally moved or mentally intrigued. When you do this, you're setting a tone for the whole story, and your reader will read on in hopes for another taste of that magic.
Here are three examples of great three-sentence novel beginnings that do just that...
1. The Phantom of the Opera, by Gaston Leroux (literary classic horror):
The Opera ghost really existed. He was not, as was long believed, a creature of the imagination of the artists, the superstition of the managers, or a product of the absurd and impressionable brains of the young ladies of the ballet, their mothers, the box-keepers, the cloak-room attendants or the concierge. Yes, he existed in flesh and blood, although he assumed the complete appearance of a real phantom; that is to say, of a spectral shade.
2. Ballad: A Gathering of Faerie, by Maggie Stiefvater (YA fantasy):
I was used to being the hunter. If I saw something I wanted, I stalked it, smelled it, made it mine. By "it" I mean "him," of course.
3.The Dead-Tossed Waves, by Carrie Ryan (YA zombie horror)
The story goes that even after the Return they tried to keep the roller coasters going. They said it reminded them of the before time. When they didn't have to worry about people rising from the dead, when they didn't have to build fences and walls and barriers to protect themselves from the masses of Mudo contstantly seeking human flesh.
Each of these beginnings radiate voice, as well as intrigue, surprise, and captivate the reader. They make you want to know more, dare you to keep reading.
If you're willing to share, I'd love to see the three pronged hook you fish for readers with. Post it in a comment below. And to play fair, I'll share, too (despite the butterflies in my stomach that always visit when I know someone is reading my stuff--eep). In keeping with the trinity theme of this post, I'll give you the beginning three from three of my books, each with very different voices and premises.
1. Splintered (YA fantasy):
I’ve been collecting bugs since I was eleven. It's the only way I can stop their whispers. Sticking a pin through the gut of an insect shuts it up pretty quick.
2. Untitled WIP (YA paranormal):
Back home, I have a poster on my wall of a rose that’s bleeding. Its petals are white, and red liquid oozes from its heart, thick and glistening warm. Only, if you look very close, you can see that the droplets are actually coming from above where a little girl’s wrist—camouflaged by a cluster of leaves and petals—has been pricked by thorns as she reached inside to catch a monarch.
3. Forgotten Silences (literary gothic love story):
Throughout my childhood, my mama sang to me. In her gardens, in the midst of foxgloves and hollyhocks taller than my five-year-old head, her voice took wing—a melody lovelier than a nightingale, more moving than a storm-crested sea. Now that I am deaf, I’m haunted by two regrets: that I didn’t memorize the sound of her voice … and the eternal absence of song in my life.
Okay, your turn! Surprise, enthrall, or tantalize me. I'm closing my eyes, and counting to three...