"I write this sitting in the kitchen sink."

(Dodie Smith in I Capture the Castle)

 

You know it when you read one.

 

"It was a pleasure to burn."

(Ray Bradbury in Fahrenheit 451)

Your eyelids raise. 

Your mind brightens. 

Your lips form "Wow." 

You get giddy.

 

"In the beginning, sometimes I left messages in the street."

(David Markson in Wittgenstein's Mistress)

 

You're hooked.


"Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins."

(Vladimir Nabokov in Lolita

 

And it all happened within a breath of a few words.

 

How do you write an opening that hooks the reader 

and nails her to her seat?


We're about to find out!

 

At the end of this month, I will be hosting the Hooked on Hooks event, where writers can link up on my blog with their own hooks for their Works-In-Progress, so we can comment and critique the hooks. In perspiration preparation for this event, made possible through Rach Writes Third Platform-Building Campaign, I decided to try and stitch together the key points of a great hook based on what I've learned from some amazing authors.

 

Writing a Great Hook

 

Ann Whitford Paul

 

Dive Into Your Story with the 6 W's:

Who is the main character

What is the problem, goal, or conflict

When does the story occur

Where is it taking place

What is the tone of the story

WOW! the reader with the opening line

 

8 Ways to Create a WOW! with the First Line:

Time

Mood

Setting

Opinion

Provocative Statement

Middle of the Action

Conflict

Scrapbook (letter, journal entry, newspaper article)

 

Les Edgerton

Author of Hooked

(This entire book is about the opening of your WIP,

so I'll only pick out some key points)

 

First Line Successes:

Give the reader an unexpected response to an event

Give the reader a character who is "cut out of different cloth than Everyman"

Give the reader trouble (either past, present, or future)

Give the reader pleasure, then "drop the forbidden apple into your Garden of Eden"

Give the reader a reason to read the second sentence; provoke the reader's curiosity

 

Openings to Avoid:

A dream

An alarm clock buzzing

Too little dialogue

Opening with dialogue

 

James Scott Bell

 

Grab the Reader:

Action

Raw Emotion

Look-Back Hook

Attitude

Prologues

 

Bond the Reader and Character:

Identify with being a real human being

Sympathy (from jeopardy, hardship, underdog, vulnerability)

Likability

Inner conflict

 

 

These authors provide much more detail on the topic of writing hooks,

but the best way to learn is to read and write.

That's what the Hooked on Hooks event is all about!

We're going to write, write, write,

then share and read and comment.

So please come back on Friday September 30th!

 

Have you written a post about hooks on your blog?

Please leave the URL to that post in my comments!

 

Helen is in the short story campaign with me,

and recently wrote about... HOOKS! and HOOKS! and more HOOKS!

Three unique and resourceful posts by Helen that all of us will learn from,

so thank you Helen!

 

 

If you'd like some examples of great first line sentences, please use the following links:



 

 

 

Keep working on your hooks, writers!

 

And come back on Friday September 30th to link your "hook" post to my linky Hooked on Hooks!

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Tags: hooks, openings, words, writing

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Comment by Kimberly Zook on September 1, 2011 at 3:10pm
Thanks Bridget! I'll be sure to send you a reminder. I look forward to reading your hook!
Comment by Bridget Straub on September 1, 2011 at 12:18pm
I'll be there asuming of course I don't forget, hmmm, a reminder later in the month perhaps?

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