Saturday, July 28, 2012

Begin with a hook

Most writers and readers know that the best books begin with a hook. The hard part is coming up with an intriguing line, sentence or paragraph that really will hook the reader in and make them keep reading. And it really does need to be the very first line or paragraph, because that’s all the time many readers will give the book.
Snoopy’s famous for typing,  “It was a dark and stormy night”, a book opening originally written by  Victorian novelist Edward Bulwer-Lytton at the beginning of his 1830 novel, Paul Clifford. In case you were thinking of using that line, the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest, sponsored by the English Department of San Jose State University, recognizes the worst examples of this sort of writing.
A better suggestion is to begin with a question. In solving it, the reader is drawn into the story. Another technique is to begin in the middle of something dramatic, which again pulls the reader along. In this case the author then needs to be careful not to use chapter two as a massive dumping ground for backstory to bring the reader up-to-date, but which is much more likely to have them throwing the book away from boredom.
Something else to avoid is the “crook”. That’s an enchanting hook that isn’t fulfilled in the book. With a crook, the hook is a major conflict that’s all solved by chapter three, or drama that fizzles out mid-book, or a promise never kept.
Your hook needs to involve a character or plot point from the story, introduced briefly and fast, but in such a way that the reader burns to know what happens next.

 Helen Woodall

Helen is available to line edit and/ or content edit fiction and non-fiction. Rates on application.


anny cook said...

Toughest part of the book.

Helen Woodall: Freelance Editing said...

Yes. Writing is a craft that takes a lot of work to get correct.

Janis said...

Oh, the ever elusive hook...

Great advice as usual, Helen.