Monday, February 20, 2012

Hooks – Good and Bad

Let’s talk about hooks. A good opening hook can, well, hook a reader and drag them into the story. That’s what a hook should do but it’s also a promise to the reader. It should set the mood of the story, introduce the protagonist, and make the genre clear. What it shouldn’t do is lie to the reader. A good hook must be related to the story, not simply be an action scene used as a ploy. If a book opens with a car chase with an exchange of bullets and a fiery crash, I’ll assume I’m digging into an action adventure. If that’s the last action and adventure I see in the book, I’m not going to be happy with the trickery. If the rest of the story is a sedate romance where nothing moves faster than a snail, I’m going to be flat out angry.

So, we know what an opening hook is and should do and what it shouldn’t do. But that isn’t the only place to hook readers. Scene breaks need hooks to keep the reader turning pages. If the characters wrap up a scene by jumping in bed and going to sleep, I may just crawl into my own bed and go to sleep. Instead, have the character reveal something important or engage another character in conflict. Nothing like conflict to keep the pages turning.

It should be obvious that chapter and scene openings are good places for hooks. A reader who is hooked has to get free and how do they do that? They keep reading.

Do you open with a hook? Any thoughts on better ways to hook readers?

~ Nickie Asher ~

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  1. This is so much harder than it sounds. We've got to get the exposition in early on so people know what's happening, but we can't bore them with details in a long-winded way. A well-crafted hook can both leap into the action/mood of the story and set up key info. It's true that the first few pages of a novel or the first few paragraphs of a chapter have to be among the best!

  2. Great post,Nickie. Made me stop and think.