NOT YOUR USUAL SUSPECTS

A group blog featuring an international array of killer mystery, suspense, and romantic suspense writers. With premises and story lines different from your run-of-the-mill whodunits, we tend to write outside the box. We blog several times a week on all topics relating to romantic suspense and mystery, our writing, and our readers. We welcome all comments and often have guest bloggers. All our authors can be contacted separately, too, using their own social media links.

We find our genre delightfully, dangerously, and deliciously exciting - join us here, if you do too!


Julie Moffet . Clare London . Cathy Perkins . Jean Harrington . Daryl Anderson . Nico Rosso . Maureen A Miller . Sandy Parks . Lisa Q Mathews . Sharon Calvin . Lynne Connolly . Janis Patterson . Vanessa Keir . Tonya Kappes . Julie Rowe . Joni M Fisher . Leslie Langtry

Sunday, July 1, 2012

BE A SUCCESSFUL HOOKER.


Join the authors and friends of Not Your Usual Suspects for an occasional series of posts about their world of reading, writing and publishing.

Short and sweet, hopefully both informative and entertaining - join us at I-Spy to find out the how's and why's of what we do.


TODAY'S POST:  BE A SUCCESSFUL HOOKER.




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FUTURE POSTS will cover:
Kindlegraph / the art of research / writing male/male romance / rejection and writer's block / building suspense / writing love scenes / anti-piracy strategies / audio books / interviews with editors and agents / using Calibre.
We welcome everyone's constructive comments and suggestions!

                    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.
   I’m talking about hooks in your writing. Hooking a reader into your story. Grabbing them so hard and fast they can‘t put your book down.

  So what is a hook? 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? I wasn’t either. I didn't see the need for an opening hook. This is what a smart author told me. 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 before I became a believer. 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 The Brass Verdict. It completely lays out the story.
“Everybody lies.
Cops lie. Lawyers lie. Witnesses lie. The victim lies.
The trial is a contest of lies. And everyone in the courtroom knows this. The judge knows this. Even the jury knows this. They come into the building knowing .They take their seats in the box and agreed to be lied to.”

  I am blown away when a reader remembers my opening or asks me if I’m a helicopter pilot.  Let’s get back to your opening. Does it immediately draw the reader in?  Don’t know? Think about it like this. Say your book is about an asteroid on a collision course with earth and the heroine who saves the day. Should the first page begin with the heroine sitting on the sofa, channel surfing, eating ice-cream, thinking about calling the hunky new neighbor that just moved in next door? But, first she has to make her grocery list, call her sister and make sure the new puppy doesn’t pee on the carpet ?
OR…The heroine learns there is a giant asteroid headed her way. She snatches up puppy, runs next door, grabs the hunk out of shower and drags him from the house seconds before the asteroid hits demolishing both homes. 
  Which are you going to want to read more of? Do you care about what her grocery list includes? What flavor of ice cream she prefers? Do you want to read farther to learn if the puppy pees on the carpet?  Not me! I’d kinda like to know if hunky neighbor had time to grab a towel, what he’s going to do for clothes and how he is going to thank the heroine for saving his life. Hmm. HOOK!

  Your opening does not have to be  explosions, fires, or murders. It does need to make the reader want to read on and on and on. You only have a few pages to ‘hook’ an agent, editor, and most important your readers.  Make the best of your first pages.  In the first paragraph drag the reader in with a grappling hook, use a spinner to end the first page.  End the first chapter with a treble hook. Go all out for the end of you submission and use a big game hook.  

  Would you like to share your opening hook?







17 comments:

Jean Harrington said...

Rita, Excellent, excellent blog. Best of all you illustrated your point about the importance of hooks by using a hook. Good show.

The opening hook of my new release, The Monet Murders? She punched in the code to the Alexander mansion as if she owned the place. The questions being, of course, why did she and why doesn't she?
Not only was your NYUS entry fun to read, it was informative. Thanks for both. Cheers and best, Jean

Rita said...

Jean, thank you. I'm blushing. I love hooks but they are a challange for me to write. Here's a first line of mine-
Gemma Hendrickson sank to her knees in the powdery white sand watching Pacific waves crash over a brand-f'ing new million-dollar plane.

Rita said...

Jean- I LOVE your opewning line.

Marcelle Dubé said...

Good post, Rita, I love your opening line. Yours, too, Jean.

Here's the opener for my latest novel, Backli's Ford:

"C-c-cold... She shivered and tried to sit up, but her body refused to move, as if a great weight pressed down on her."

Rita said...

Thanks Marcelle. Your first line is great. This is fun.

Toni Anderson said...

Excellent post, Rita. Hooks are something I try to work on during edits. They are so important.

Opening line of my next book:
"Towering pines loomed menacingly overhead but nothing stirred."

Must work on the hooks in the WIP.

Elise Warner said...

Hot spit, Rita. I think you just convinced me to change the opening of a novel I've begun submitting. Here are the new lines.
>I reached for the Times and the front page of the New York Post sent a shock wave directly to my brain. Photos of Bobby Grady spread beneath a headline that screamed, “BROADWAY BOBBY BLASTED.” Black spots floated in front of my eyes, my legs belonged to somebody else.<

Maureen A. Miller said...

I love the hooks I'm reading here. You're all excellent hookers! :) Thanks for a great post, Rita.

Here is my new hook.

Aimee Patterson took her dog for a walk on the other side of the pond. She returned six years later with a tale she could never share.

Rita said...

Toni, I do chapter ending during edits. If i don't get the opening the opening taken care of right away it drives me crazy. I think mystery/suspense opening are really difficult. the first page has to introduce one protagonist if not two. Set the scene for where they are and what the conflict will be.
Not easy.

Rita said...

"BROADWAY BOBBY BLASTED.” My mind is off to the races thinking about that. Ya hooked me.
And snort! Hot spit?1? LOL!

Rita said...

OMG! Maureen your line is fantastic.

Autumn Jordon said...

Great post, Rita. I work hard to hook both first lines and ending chapter lines.

Here is the opening line of my wip.

Nicole filled her lungs and steeled herself against the fear threatening to erode away her courage.

Shelley Munro said...

Very cool post, Rita. Hooks are really important in this instant gratification age.

J Wachowski said...

Great title hook, Rita!
You have me thinking...Here's the opening line to my latest, tweaked for better hooking. :)

"There was nothing quite like the sight of a man on his knees."

Rita said...

Autumn- your first is veerry interesting.
Shelley -with so many books out there it is important to grave the reader right away
Ms Wachowski-Okay -that sends my mind in all kinds of directions. Good job.

Clare London said...

I'm actually part of a panel in Sept at our UK Authors' Meet on "opening paragraphs". I'm scrabbling away to find my very best and most hook-y one! :) Excellent post.

Rita said...

Oh! Can I take part in the panel?

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