Are You "Hooked" Yet?

When our blog subject for May was announced my first newbie thought was again, SAY WHAT? Writer’s jargon, great, now I have to learn more new words?! Aacckk! I’m still reeling from genre and what’s really scary is that we were supposed to pick one for ourselves. I’m thinking; how do you come up with something for yourself when you don’t know what they are to start with, and the few you do know, you don’t fully understand? But after bubbling around in my brain for awhile, what I learned from WARA’s “Right Hook” contest, finally popped out.
After my, aha! moment: I was hooked!

Hook, that’s it, my writer’s jargon. Not Captain Hook or Hook, Line and Sinker but a writer’s hook. So, what is it you ask? I will attempt to explain, and if I’m wrong someone wiser than I will correct me thus educating us all. You ready?

Hook: Something to hold or catch your attention in a story placed in the first few pages of a book.

This also applies to cover blurbs which are designed to catch and hold the interest of potential buyers, and queries and partials which are created to catch and hold the attention of editors and publishers. All of which are extremely important to the life of a writer who wishes to eat!

It may be a sentence: She sighed with fatigue as she approached the front door when the musical strains of, Crazy, sung by Patsy Cline wafted from within, freezing her body with fear while tremors of shock and panic seized her mind and heart screaming, how had he found me again?

Or a paragraph: As Nick looked around the yard, his face registering shock and disbelief, he realized that he could not find Julie, his wife. He began to frantically run towards each small group of neighbors clustered together in the red tinged darkness of the secluded clearing. Fear lashed at him as he realized that she must still be inside. He shook off the protesting hands of his concerned neighbors and rushed back into the house. His friends waited, watching in fear for Nick as the burning maelstrom that had been his home began to collapse upon itself.

Or a theme: Historical settings such as wars, lifestyles (Amish, pioneers), hospitals (Doctors) and etc. are fertile grounds for picking a theme. Writer’s often base a series of books around a central town or family (Jillian Hart’s, The McKaslin Clan) thus ensuring that once hooked, you’ll be back for more.

So now that you have been ed-u-ma-cated you are out of excuses.
Get to writing; hook ‘em good and reel ‘em in!


Rox Delaney said...

Great explanation, Becky! Hooks really are used in a whole lotta ways, depending on how they're used and for what purpose.

Books (and novel writers) aren't the only things that use hooks. Television is famous for hooks. Do soap operas ring a bell? And then there are advertisements, using hooks to get you to buy or use their products or services, whether on radio, TV, or in print.

Did you know that singer-songwriter Mac Davis wrote the song, Baby, Baby, Don't Get Hooked on Me because he was told he needed a "hook" song on his breakthrough album to really jumpstart his singing career?

Pat Davids said...

By jove, I think she's got it!

Very good post, Becky. You're on your way to earning your writing diploma. Like any career, the education prosess for authors can be long and frustrating, but it will stand you well in the end.


Penny Rader said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Penny Rader said...

Good job, Becky!

Last night I was flipping through a few books' opening pages. Weird how one story just sucks you in while another may not.

Rox Delaney said...

It's even better to have a hook in that first sentence or first (short) paragraph. It makes for a strong opening hook.

Penny Rader said...

I agree, Rox.

I also think, that after you've gotten someone to read past that first sentence, and then the first page, that you need a good hook sentence at the end of the chapter to compel the reader to turn the page and continue on to the next chapter.

Then you get to come up with another hook for that new chapter, and so on.

Rox Delaney said...

Not only at the end of the chapter, Penny, but a small hook at the end of each scene keeps readers from closing the at the "pause".

Always leave a reader with a question in his/her mind.

Penny Rader said...

You're so right, Rox.

I guess the whole story is really a series of hooks in a way. You never want to give the reader a reason to put your book down...because they may never pick it up again. Or buy your next one or the one after that.

Becky A said...

Thanks for stopping by ladies. We had a big car project today and I totally forgot that I was up to bat! Oops!!
If it wasn't for hooks most of the retail world would stop cold. If you can make people think you have what they can't live without, you have them hooked and your product sold.
I am a little concerned about your thoughts on needing a hook for every scene though. That seems almost like an impossibility to me and how do you get your mind to think of all these things while you write? Do you go over each page with a check off list of did I do this or did I do that? Am I overcomplicating things or have the panic fairies taken over again??
Thanks for taking the time to comment, I appreciate the support.

Joan Vincent said...

Becky, your post and the discussion opened my eyes to few new ways to view hooks. I agree with Rox and Penny. It's not only leave readers with a question but perhaps a fear or hope. When what's next is in doubt they'll turn the pages to find out.

Starla Kaye said...

Nicely done, Becky. You're definitely a newbie who is well on track.

Learning to write a hook can be tricky, as well as remembering there are more places to put hooks besides the beginning. Each chapter needs to end in some manner that pulls the reader (hooks) them into going on to read the next chapter.