By Hook or by...Hook? (Rox Delaney)

Fishermen and writers have something in common:  They both use more than one kind of hook, whether it's fishermen hooking fish or writers hooking readers.

As writers, we want to write the type of stories readers will immediately recognize as their kind of story.  Besides the obvious genres of romance (historical, contemporary, paranormal, inspirational, etc.) and sub-genres, readers often look for even more specifics. 

A partial list of popular hooks include:

Cowboys & Western Settings
Marriage of Convenience
...and more...

But story hooks aren't the only kind of hooks writers use.  Once we've "hooked" the reader into picking up or buying a book, thanks to a story hook, we want to keep them reading.  We need a different type of hook for that.

As readers, we all know that the easiest time to put a book down is when there's a break in the action or romance or conflict that usually comes at the end of a scene and especially at the end of a chapter.  The clock is creeping closer to midnight (or later!) and we need our beauty sleep!  Or we have kids to get up, jobs to go to, appointments to meet.  As writers, we deal with those, too, in real life, but we want our readers to ignore them and not close our book until the story has reached its ending.  We need to keep up the readers' interest, and we do that by adding scene and chapter hooks.

What are scene and chapter hooks and how to write them?  One of the first "rules" I remember hearing when I started writing was to never end a scene or chapter with the character, be it hero or heroine, going to sleep.  What better time for a reader to do the same!  So here are a few ways to keep the reader from sticking in a bookmark or putting the book on the bedside table.

1.  Leave the POV character in a questionable position, whether it's physical or emotional.  That first kiss between the Hero and Heroine is a terrific hook and can result in several different reactions from the POV character.  Or the kiss itself can be the end of the scene or chapter, with the reaction of the same or opposite character beginning the next scene.

2. Put the character in danger.  Of course the first thing that comes to mind when the word "danger" is used physical danger.  But what about a character who's in danger of losing his or her heart?  How will she/he handle something that has just happened?

3.  End with an unanswered question.  Whether the question is asked or is only in the character's mind, the reader will be wanting to know the answer.

But even when you use any of the above hooks or any others, a writer is not required to solve those questions, smooth those emotions or answer those questions immediately in the next scene or chapter.  Of course they must be answered in the course of the story, but the reader will most likely keep reading, until the question/emotion/danger is answered or solved...or until the next hook.

What are you favorite hooks (either kind!) to use?  Are there any memorable hooks you remember from books you've read?


Reese Mobley said...

Writing hooks for romantic comedies is so much fun. The hooks can, and usually are, very outlandish. Since I'm a pantser, I usually don't know what is going to happen until the last minute either which isn't always a good thing. It makes the reaction or recovery aka next chapter a challenge sometimes.

Roxann Delaney said...

That's where Scene & Sequel can come in handy. Also, here's something to think about. Don't stop writing at a scene or chapter break so your stream of thought continues as you hope a reader's will.

Penny Rader said...

Some of favorite story hooks are fairy tale elements (Beauty & the Beast), amnesia, woman in jeopardy, redemption, emotional healing.

I found this nifty list of Classic Romance Plots (scroll down) and this list of Romance Plot Devices(though there are several that I would delete because I don't find them romantic at all).

Pat Davids said...

When I think of hooks I think of tv shows where the heroine is dangling off the roof and a pair of boot appear by her hands--cut to commercial.
You've got to know if it's the good guy or the bad guy. Stay tuned.
Drama style tv is a great place to learn about effectively using hooks.

Roxann Delaney said...

Yes it is, Pat. So glad you mentioned it! It's also good for teaching turning points...which go hand in hand with those hooks.

Roxann Delaney said...

Penny, thanks for the links!! I'll definitely check them out. Always looking for a refresher to kick start something. :)