Monday, April 25, 2011

BE A SUCCESSFUL HOOKER.

Hooker?
Did you come to the blog thinking I was going to talk about a very old profession? If you did well……. HA! Made you look. You fell for my hook.
So what is a hook?
I think instructor Mary Buckham, in her lecture packet on Hooks and Pacing, says it best.
"Hooks create an emotional response from a reader. Not just any emotional response but one that gets under your subconscious, raises a question and compels a reader to turn one more page in order to find an answer.
Hooks can, and should be used, in the opening sentence of a book, the opening paragraph, the end of the first page, the end of the third page, the end of the third chapter, opening a chapter as well as an ending one, at each new scene and, if you're writing a series, the last sentence."
In her book How I Write Janet Evanovich says: "The beginning is the most important part of the book. It must capture the reader immediately and force them to keep reading."
Agent Donald Maas says hooks are vital to open your book, open each chapter, open each scene, and end the book. The best books contain one or more of twelve different hooks.
* Action or danger
* Overpowering emotion
* A surprising situation
* An evocative description that pulls a reader into a setting [think a specific setting here that impacts the story line vs simply description per se – simple description of a generic or vague nature is not evocative nor qualifies as a setting]
* Introducing a unique character [Introduction of a character is not enough – they must be unique.
* Warning or foreshadowing
* Shocking or witty dialogue [internal or external]
* The totally unexpected
* Raising a direct question

Still not convinced hooks are important? Take five of your favorite books from the shelf and read the first paragraph. Is there a hook? I had twenty-one books on the table and all save one had a hook. All but a handful had the story GMC in the first pages. My very favorite opening is Michael Connelly’s first page of The Brass Verdict. It completely lays out the story.
Recently I was at a luncheon and ladies were talking about a book on the best seller list. One asked if the book was any good, should she read it. They other’s response blew me away. She said, “It’s great once you get past the first hundred pages.” I knew the book, it was two hundred seventy-five pages. My mouth is always forty feet in front of the rest of me spoke up and asked why on earth would anyone continue to read a book after the first five pages if it didn’t interest you. To me those are chuckawalla books. They don’t grab my attention in those fist pages and they get chucked against the wall.
Does your opening immediately draw the reader in? Want to share? Or tell me what you most favorite ever opening is.
Here’s my opening for Under Fire.

“We have a visual on the boat.” Coast Guard Lt. Commander Olivia Carver’s gloved fingers tightened around the helicopter’s control stick and she increased airspeed. The chase was on.
Olivia’s heartbeat matched the tempo of the rotors. Sweat bonded her flight suit to her body and trickled between her breasts. Counter-narcotics had become her reason for existing and she was damn good at it.

25 comments:

Marcelle Dubé said...

Good post, Rita. Here's the opening for "The Shoeless Kid":

The shoe appeared on her desk, gently deposited on top of the pile of occurrence reports from the last week.

It was a kid's high top – left foot – and it was red and grubby, but not worn. Damp.

Kate automatically picked it up, more to keep it from dirtying her paperwork than out of curiosity. On the inside of the flap, in red marker, was written “Josh H.” She flipped the shoe over to look at the underside. A size 4. It would fit a… what? A four or five year old?

Bobby MacAllister's age.

Anne Marie Becker said...

Great post, Rita. (Um, is it bad if I think I'm a good hooker? LOL) I LOVE starting in the middle of action, or with a situation where you wonder how the hell did the person end up there?!

In "Only Fear," the heroine is slumped against the wall in a bathroom, her face pressed against the cold tile as she prays for strength.

In my WIP, I start in the middle of a terrorist attack.

Ending chapters on hooks is a bit more challenging for me, but it's the kind of challenge I love! :)

Marcelle - LOVE the red shoe hook. Such vivid imagery! And the fact that it is a kid's shoe tugs on emotions immediately. Wonderful.

Rita said...

Ohhhh! Marcelle very interesting. I tried to turn the page to read more.

Rita said...

Anne Marie, I love starting in the middle also. In a workshop, Rocki St Clair said something I always remember. “Get into a scene late and leave early.” I think this is very true for suspense and thriller writers

Marcelle Dubé said...

Aw... thanks, Anne-Marie. And thanks, Rita, too. I *love* the idea of arriving late to a scene and leaving early!

MaureenAMiller said...

And here I thought this was going to be a post about fishing...

You are so absolutely correct on all counts, Rita! I love to jump right in or you're going to lose me.

Marcelle...it's going to be a great week in May, isn't it? I can't wait for Shoeless Kid.

Kathy Ivan said...

She should have locked the door.

Theresa Crawford watched the man close the door behind him with a firm but solid click. Big trouble—she could sense it. Darkness radiated from him in waves.

These are the opening lines from my Carina Press release, Desperate Choices. Like other commenters have said, I tried to jump immediately into the middle of the scene, hopefully making the reader want to read more.

Thanks, Rita, for such a great blog post. This is one time where I want to be a successful "hooker." LOL

Rita said...

Well, Maureen I could talk about treble hooks, and trolling hooks and back in the day shark hooks. Oh! Maybe that other kind… but these days this is all the hooking I do.
I'm glad you like the jump right in theory also.
It doesn’t need to be with explosions or gun fights. I think it’s Elosia James who started on one book with “But I didn’t mean to marry both of them.” Big hook and you know what the story is going to be about.

Rita said...

Kathy, very nice opening. Raises many questions to keep the reader going.
May you be a successful hooker. *grin*

Elise Warner said...

Great blog, Rita. Here is Scene Stealer's opening.

I must have been staring at the child. For a moment our eyes met; his were frightened, seeking help. Was it my imagination gone wild? No. After all those years of teaching elementary school, I knew this child was afraid.

Rita said...

I was jsut cruising twitter and this was NPR's hook.
For Prostitutes, An Alternative To The Streets.
How's that for an opening line? Anyone want to come up with the next sentence?

Rita said...

Elise, this gives me shivvers.Wow!

Wynter Daniels said...

Good post. I quit reading if a book doesn't hook me immediately.

My upcoming release, Protective Custody begins:
"Watch out for ghosts and goblins." (yes, it is Halloween night)

Rita said...

Wynter, what's the title and when is it being released?

MaureenAMiller said...

Love that, Wynter. I can't wait.

Shirley Wells said...

Great post!

I used to give a book 50 pages before throwing it at the wall, but life's too short. Now, if I'm not grabbed in the first 2 or 3, I give up on it. Too many books, not enough time.

My favourite hook of all time is the opening of Iain Banks' 'The Crow Road':
It was the day my grandmother exploded. I sat in the crematorium, listening to my Uncle Hamish quietly snoring in harmony to Bach's Mass in B Minor, and I reflected that it always seemed to be death that drew me back to Gallanach.

I so wish I'd written that. :)

Writer Pat Newcombe said...

I so agree about the importance of good hooks. I too do not read too far into a book if it does not grip me in the first few pages. I try to use good hooks throughout my writings, as I know it's too easy to put a book down when you have a million things to do!

Rita said...

Shirley I've never read that. It sure is a great lead in. I love with ereaders you get the first few pages and even a chapter. You are right there are too many books out there to waste time on something that doesn't interest you.

Rita said...

Pat I listen to many books. I've had Water for Elephants on my kindle for a very long time but no time to sit and give it my full attention. I recently listened to it. I'm afraid it has ruined me for the movie. It was so well done i can still 'see' the characters.
Listening sure makes housework and exercising easier to take.

J.L. Campbell said...

Interesting discussion. The only thing that keeps me reading a not-so-interesting book is sheer doggedness. Nowadays though, I don't have the time for it, so if it doesn't grab me, I put is aside pretty quickly.

Rita said...

EGGZACKERLY! who has time to sit and read a books to 'see' if will get better? It's supposed to start out better.

Julie Moffett said...

Hey, Rita! I was all prepared for a sexy post. LOL!

I like to think I'm a good hooker!! Well, at least occasionally in my story, that is.

Here are the first lines of my Carina novel "No One Lives Twice."

"When I was little, everyone who knew me thought I was odd. I never wanted to play with dolls and I didn’t enroll in ballet or gymnastics. Instead my paramount interest was numbers."

Super post and a good reminder on how to keep the reader engaged. :)

Rita said...

Julie -Great opening!
Tells a lot about the heroine in the first lines. And.. she sounds like my kinda heroine.

Clare London said...

Excellent post, Rita. One of the best bits of advice I ever received for writing a book was - make that opening scene GREAT! I've been trying ever since :). And as a reader I agree, nowadays if I'm not gripped in the first few pages by the story and/or the style, they've lost me.

My opening sentences for Blinded by Our Eyes (at Carina):

The sound of a man crying was the first shock. Deep, racking sobs echoing off the smooth walls of my showroom. The whole gallery was usually deserted and cool at this late hour, despite the urban truth that London never slept. Yet tonight something in the air resonated with tension. And huddled in the far corner was a slender, pale young man. Arms clenched around his drawn-up knees, his eyes hot and wet, staring at me through a fringe of bedraggled dark curls. He looked angry and scared, and for the first few seconds it was all directed at me.

Rita said...

Zowie! Clare you suxked me in with that opening.
I know what you mean about nailing the opening. I tweak mine constantly. Thanks for stopping by