Just Write Right | Articles for Authors

For all the aspiring authors out there, this is for you. Enjoy!

The All Essential Hook

The hook. The first few words that grab your readers right from the get-go and keeps them turning those pages. This is the thing that every writer, whether published or not strives to achieve. You want your readers to keep reading, to keep buying your books, but most importantly you want the editor whose desk your manuscript is waiting on to be hooked. Editors receive dozens of manuscripts of hopeful novelists every week, it is very time consuming to read them and each editor has developed little red flags that will let them know when it is time to put your manuscript down. They just have so many potential novels to read that pile up everyday, they couldn't possibly get through them all if they read each and every one right to the end. Each editor has developed their own red flags, but a stories beginning is crucial. All editors will agree that if the beginning is bad than it is reasonable to assume from experience that the rest of the story will also be bad. Of course if your beginning is great, than it would stand to reason that the rest of your novel could be great too.

The hook goes beyond the first sentence. It is the first paragraph, page, scene and even chapter. This could make or break your chance of being published. You must make your words reach up from your manuscript, grab the editor by the ears and hold her there till she wouldn't dream of putting your masterpiece down until the last words of your epilogue were being mouthed silently from her enthralled lips!

Now I am going to tell you a few things NOT to do in the beginning of your novel or short story. Don't fill in the reader and editor in on the entire history of your characters or your reader will probably forget a lot of points that were important to your story. You need to ease in, give a little background and slip the rest in through cleverly placed thoughts or conversation pieces throughout the story. Keep your reader wanting more. The less they know, the less predictable the story will be for them and in turn the more enthralling. This is what we call pacing.

Another common writer habit to avoid is blowing your reader away with lots of action right at the beginning and then not being able to match or even top it for the rest of the story, let alone the climax. This is another example of pacing. I'm not saying high action at the beginning of your story is a no-no, but there has to be something said for a slow and smooth start that leaves the reader quivering with intrigue and needing more.

The hook doesn't stop at the beginning, it carries through the entire story right up until the final line that leaves your readers scanning the names every time their at the book store for Your Name. Every time you introduce a new character, describe a setting or develop plot be sure to do something that the reader did not expect, don't be predictable. You want to leave them wondering, make them smile at the clever twist that they hadn't expected. The same goes for your characters. The jock is not always dumb or mean. The cheerleader doesn't have to be a bitch and the great wizard could be afraid of dragonflies, oh and he's also a trapped for eternity in a banana tree by his own hand and until he is rescued or learns to trust his own magic he will be forever imprisoned. Did i mention that bulldozers are scheduled next week to flatten the banana forest to make way for condos and that he faces being made into a million toothpicks for the local steakhouse?

Another good technique is setting a scene with strange curiosities, only do not forget to later give reasons for these things. Perhaps mention the time of the clock, then later discover that the time was incorrect and give a twist that was caused by it. Or a strand of female hair on the couch that later leads your leading man to be dumped by his girl in a jealous fit after finding it on his collar. Keep your readers asking questions, wondering why.

Instead of following a set of queues when writing your story to a 'T', like the many blue prints for romance novels. (Not that I'm not guilty of loving that stuff- Angela Knight, your my hero). Try to create pleasant plot twists. We love what we do not expect, surprise me, but not without reason. Your readers loves to be surprised, but if no explanation is
eventually given , your readers may feel cheated and left hanging.

You may be noticing a trend, for every piece of the puzzle that is your story the reader wants to be surprised, even if subtle. A predictable story can still be an good story, but it may be the difference between getting published and getting rejected. To conclude, don't be predictable!

I will write more articles on the finer points of hooking your reader and hopefully your editor soon. So don't miss out, subscribe!