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Thursday, December 3, 2009

Hooks

I've read a lot of articles about writing. I've surfed the web and visited blogs in search of writing tips. And one that keeps jumping out at me is about the concept of hooks. You know, the tantalizing tidbits that lure readers in and keep them wanting more.

One kind is the first sentence/first paragraph hook. I've read different accounts that say your first paragraph must be written in such a way as to immediately grab the reader's attention. Some even go so far as to say the very first sentence must fulfill that role. It's a daunting task, trying to convince someone (and agent, an editor, and readers) that your masterpiece is worthy of their time, and the first few words may make them want more or flat out reject it. After all, you have to establish the characters, setting, and tone of your work in a few hundred words.

Another type of hook is the "leave them wanting more" kind that should be utilized at the end of each chapter. The idea is to have the reader get to the end of a chapter, saying they will finish tomorrow, but realize they just HAVE to read one more chapter because they can't put it down. I've ended some of my chapters in several ways: by having the characters learn something that they didn't already know, having them realize that their safety is in jeopardy, and by having their worst fears confirmed. Now these are not the only things I've used, just a few that made me want to plunge immediately into the next chapters. After all, if I can't wait to find out what happens next, maybe the readers will feel the same way, too.

What are some things you have learned about hooks? Do they frustrate you when trying to come up with them, or do they come easily to you? What are some tips you can share?

10 comments:

  1. Good post! I love using twists to hook the reader into "just one more chapter". A good twist that I've used is to end a chapter right after the revelation of some new, important information in the plotline. It leaves the reader wanting to know what happens now.

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  2. You are a master at the hook! I'm still working at it. My main problem is that I always want things resolved at the end of each chapter. Bad, bad me. I usually end stuff with the day coming to a close, time for bed, whatever, and that's the worst thing I could do. I've been trying to fix my WIP and get out of the "closure" mentality, but it isn't easy.

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  3. I enjoy coming up with hooks. I'm editing currently and I've found I run into more difficulty keeping the tension tight throughout the whole novel. Sure, a line here and a paragraph there...but maintaining it...that's a whole other story.

    Often short sentences that leave something open-ended do the trick for me. Not rhetorical though. Boring.
    ~ Wendy

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  4. Ah the hook. I think a hook is important, but not necessarily in the first paragraph. I usually give a book at least a chapter to hook me. I think it's important that the first chapter of books present the main conflict of the book. Or at least hint at it.

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  5. I think the first sentence should be a grabber, but it doesn't necessarily have to have a "hook." But the first chapter should absolutely set the tone and leave you wanting more!

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  6. Ah the hook! Love those. I end my chapters with unresolved issues, something to take them into the next one. As for the first sentence/paragraph- ugh- I'm working on that- that is the hardest part for me!

    Great post :o)

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  7. I have a love/hate relationship with hooks. I LOVE coming up with them, but I hate how many revisions I have to go through until I like how they sound.

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  8. Courtney - I'm trying to master "the twist" hook.

    Tina - You're making me blush! And your hooks are getting much better. It's amazing how far we've come in such a short period of time.

    Wendy - That's something I will have to work on when I finish, keeping the tension tight throughout the whole book.

    Kasie & Daisy - I agree that when I read a book I want the first chapter to grab me. I don't judge one by the first paragraph alone. I was referring to the fact that agents want to be hooked with your first paragraph. Maybe I should have said that:)

    Erica - That's another one I've tried. It's funny how many different types of hooks there are:)

    Sara - I know exactly what you mean. It makes you feel great when you nail that perfect hook, but I rarely get it right on the first attempt. I know I shouldn't, but I've been editing my chapters to death before I post them for my crit group to read.

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  9. I think a good hook is the hardest thing to get right... and considering most agents only want the first five to ten pages, it's vital. It looks like you have a good critique group, and that is such a huge help in figuring this stuff out :)

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  10. Writing the first line of any book is always a thrill for me. It's so wide open in its possibilities of wit and mystery and sometimes downright admission. That said, it's also one of the most difficult bits to write. Write. Rewrite. Rewrite again. Eventually, the words fall into place, and you just know you've nailed it!

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