Monday, January 4, 2010
Writing Commandment #6 Honor Thy Hooks
What is a hook? Basically, it's like a movie or TV teaser, something that will keep your reader engaged and salivating for more of your story. Example "Tune in next week to discover if Bob and Ted will really blow up the planet...." It's what keeps the audience coming back for more.
Just like you probably won't snag a trout without a hook, the chances of snaring a reader sans hooks are slim to none. If they aren't engaged by your plot, if they don't care about your hero/ heroine and their plights, they may stop reading.
A hook is a hint, a promise that more of the good stuff is on the way. Example: in Skeletons in the Closet, I set the scene for Thanksgiving Day, all the relatives are gathered and bickering like petulant children and Maggie was knocking back the booze. Then, there's a knock on the door.
I pasted my most welcoming smile on my face and breathed in the fresh November air as I took in the two uniformed officers at the back door.
“Now, gentlemen, this is getting to be old hat,” I informed them.
“Um, are you Mrs. Phillips?” the impossibly blond young man asked.
I touched a hand to my chest. “That I am.”
“Your husband reported a missing wheelbarrow this morning, is that right?”
Neil appeared behind me. “Yes, yes I did. Have you found it?”
“Oh good. Where was it?” I asked on a giggle.
“I know it’s the holiday and everything, but do you think the two of you could come down to the station?”
“What’s the meaning of this?” Ralph blustered. “Neil, who are these people?”
“Pay attention, Ralph, look at the uniforms.” Laura was by his side. The doorway felt very crowded, so I took a step outside.
“Sir, we have some questions to ask, and we think it would be better down at the station.”
“What kind of questions?” Neil looked as baffled as I felt.
“Do you need us to ID the wheelbarrow or something? Has more than one rusty old wheelbarrow gone missing?” Champagne plus my mother-in-law equaled a belligerent Laundry Hag.
“No, ma’am.” The chubby red-haired officer cleared his throat.
“Then what’s the problem?”
The blond one looked at Big Red and back to me. “There’s a body in it.”
I received this email from my editor the day after she read this scene.
Yes, Hag is very funny. I was going to close at the end of this chapter, but the cops have just called to say there's a body in the wheelbarrow, so I glanced at the clock, thought, "Oh, eff it!" and decided to carry on. I mean it. I'm going to close after this next chapter, no matter what cliffhanger you've left at the end of it!
Does it get better than that? Knowing you've totally wrecked someone's plans for an early bedtime so they can keep reading your work?
I think not.