"It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen."

Now that's a great opening line to a novel. The reader's attention is grabbed by the immediate contradiction in this first line of George Orwell's 1984 and they want to read on for an explanation.  

Just as intriguing are the opening sentences of one of my favourite books of more recent times by Paulo Coelho: 

"On 11 November 1997, Veronika decided that the moment to kill herself had - at last - arrived. She carefully cleaned the room that she rented in a convent, turned off the heating, brushed her teeth and lay down."

So many questions arise from those two lines that you can't help but read on to know how this woman found herself where she is, so preparedly planning to end it all. 

But how do they do it? What is the secret behind crafting the perfect opener? And is there some kind of formula for how to balance just the right amount of detail with a smidgen of intrigue, a small taste of gravitas and a sprinkling of the surreal?

The eloquent Sean D'Souza, writing for Copyblogger, comes to the aid of content writers struggling to make themselves heard in the noisy world of online content marketing. He suggests three ways to hook your readers from the first sentence onwards. 

D'Souza moves readers of his post through each method in turn: from the art of the demonstration to the unsung hero of the case study and finally, on to the key to taking an opposing view.  And he believes that in all of these efforts writers should take their lead from great speakers; illustrating points with stories, with counter-arguments and examples.  

And what of a suitable ending? Maybe D'Souza will offer a post on that topic another time, but in the meanwhile, I leave the last word to E.B. White, who in the final line of Charlotte's Web, pertinently wrote: 

"It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer. Charlotte was both."