is for hook.
What do I mean by a hook?
A hook will exist in a variety of writing, from articles, t0 poetry, short stories and novels. It is that magnetic word, or group of words, that grips the attention of a prospective reader or browser, and turns that person into a reader.
My own rule for short stories is to create a hook within the first 30 words. It may go over by one or two, but generally I manage to keep it pretty tight.
Example 1: Opening lines of my short story, ‘Duty Bound’.
‘Gary felt pain throughout his body. He opened his eyes and gasped. A small monkey that had been studying him from six inches away shrieked, and scurried along the high branch.’ (31 words)
Example 2: Opening lines of my short story, ‘Mary had a little gun’.
‘Standing in the remote, disused warehouse; Mary stared through the broken windows. Her tortured thoughts drifted back briefly, to life before she became a wife and mother. She had been a different person then. (34 words)
When writing a novel, I may not follow the template suggested by the ‘How to …’ books, but I do create a hook within the first 3 – 5 pages. I also create a hook early, and late in each chapter. In a novel, they are better described as cliff-hangers.
I tend not to give the solution to the cliff-hanger too early in the next chapter, preferring in some cases to keep it under wraps for maybe two chapters or more. Some solutions might be kept from the reader for longer, but I make sure the solutions are worthy of such a wait. The key thing is; they must exist to keep the reader going.
A good choice of title, cover, or both, might be enough to capture interest, but the writer must create a recurring interest to keep those pages turning. The story must tease the reader’s inquisitive nature, sometimes allowing the reader to play detective for a while, and then the solution to one issue is overlapped by creating a new one.
Your task as a writer is to entertain and lure the prospective reader into looking beyond the title of the short story, or novel. Tease them into looking at that first page, and then draw them in, line by line, and page by page.
If those hook examples have worked for any of you, those two stories are available on this blog. As always, thank you for reading, and I’ll see you back here for … ‘I’.