Sunday, February 21

Hooking Your Readers

As writers, we have many things we need to do to have a successful story. The characters have to be likable, the plot needs to be solid, and the writing needs to be good. However, none of that matters if you cannot get someone to pick up your book and read it. One of my beta readers and good friends, Jennifer, does this neat "First Line Fridays" where she opens up a book and gives us the first line (or paragraph) of a story and asks us if we'd want to keep reading. Not only has this been entertaining, but it's also been enlightening. The books I said no to did not have a very good beginning. There was no hook. There was nothing to keep me wanting to read.

Do you see where I'm going with this? As writers, one of our first jobs in the book is to hook our readers. In my opinion, this is the most important job. You may argue with me on it, but think about it. If your beginning does not hook, people will not keep reading the story to find out that you're brilliant!

Still don't believe me? Pick up any of your favourite books and read the first line.

I know many of you are huge fans of Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater. Here is the first line to this book:
"I remember lying in the snow, a small red spot of warm going cold, surrounded by
wolves."
I'm not sure about you, but I want to find out what the heck is going on. I'd keep reading, regardless of whether or not I was all that interested, just to assuage my curiosity. If the writing is good after that initial hook, I guarantee you I'll be buying the book.

As well, for you writers who have different POV's in their story, you HAVE to hook us with all of your POV's, not just the first one. If Chapter One has Suzy and Chapter Two has Brian, you better be hooking us with both characters.

Alright, so for fun I thought I'd post some of my hooks from The Sound of Snow. I'd post two from my new work-in-progress, but I'd rather a few beta's read it first. Oh yes, by the way, I am going to need a few betas to read the Prologue and Chapter One of the new story within a few days just to make sure I'm on the right track. If you're interested, let me know in the comments. However, I do reserve the right to pick someone else (obviously).

The Sound of Snow hooks (one you've already seen):
"Kitty was ready to kill someone, damn the consequences. If one more middle aged, powdered and pampered gentleman groped her bottom, she was going to go find the nearest vase and smash it over his pink, balding head."

"With five younger sisters, William Huntley, the sixth earl of Rochester, had thought he’d seen it all. Lord, had he been wrong."

So, what do you think? Feel free to share some of your hooks in the comments!

13 comments:

  1. I love that first hook! It sounds like something I would keep reading!

    Here's the hook from GOING BOVINE:

    "The best day of my life happened when I was five and almost died at Disney World."

    It's a great book, if you haven't already read it.

    I think I'm interested in being a beta... I've never done it for a historical romance before, but I'd love to help any way I can! Just let me know if you're interested... my email is natalia dot 165 at gmail dot com.

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  2. I loved these the first time I read them and I still love them.

    I saw this one on one of my many trips to Borders where I grab books for an hour and only read first lines. It stuck in my memory.

    "I plunge my thumb between the folds of the incision, then hook my forefinger deep into her neck."

    Gross, huh? But it sure makes your eyes open and wide and think, "What the?"

    Tethered by Amy Mackinnon

    I'd be happy to beta for you if it's only a prologue and first chapter. I don't have time to beta a full MS right now, but small sections I can make time for. :)

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  3. Great post, Nat. I'll write down what I think is the best hook ever and then a month later, I'm like, "When did I write that crap."

    I have bookmarked this post and I would've picked the hook from Going Bovine too, that book is sickly amazing.

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  4. Nice post! You know how much I like analyzing hooks. :)

    I like your example hook. I haven't read the book, but now I want to!

    As you know, I think your hooks are terrific. I'd love to read any part of your new WIP if you want to share with me. Just send me an email.

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  5. Your post made me think of this quote by Mickey Spillane: "The first chapter sells the book. The last chapter sells the next book." Or to tie this into your post... Hook 'em at the beginning and also at the end - of each chapter, each scene and anywhere else the reader's attention might wander.

    I think your hooks are great, Nat. They do exactly what they're supposed to - keep drawing the reader forward. =o) I can't wait to read what you have ready for beta.

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  6. I have to be invited to read that blog and now I am sad =(

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  7. Great topic, Natalie! I so agree with you about the hooks you provided, especially the one for "Shiver" which I have not read. I want to know what happens next!

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  8. Interesting post on hooks. I am told mine had my mentor wanting to read more, so that's a positive.

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  9. You know, this post almost makes me want to cut my prologue (which gives away stuff that happens after the fact, or during... but not before. It's one of THOSE prologues.)

    Anway, I don't think my hook is strong enough, and I am not sure if it can be strong enough. Maybe I shouldn't give it away: maybe I'll start with this:

    Laurel Lancaster suffered from the same daddy issues that affect most women in this day and age, but still, she found it a poor form to use it as a justification for the way she turned out -- for the way things turned out.

    Or something. :)

    Great post! It really got me thinking.

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  10. Mariah- The hook from Shiver or my hook, lol? Yeah, that is a good hook from Going Bovine. I've been thinking of picking it up. Thanks! I'll let you know soon =)

    Karen- Thanks hun =) Yeah that is gross, lol. Okay, thanks =) I'll let you know soon.

    Jonathon- Thanks! Aww that sucks.

    Jennifer- Thanks darling =) Haha yes. I didn't even realize I HAD hooks in SoS until you pointed it out in your critique, LOL!

    Tina- LOL! Yes, that seems to be the general feeling. I'm hoping my new heroine can kick as much butt and gain that much love.

    B.E.- I agree completely. You have to keep them wanting to read "just one more chapter" etc.... Aww thanks =D I hope you like the new WIP.

    Meg- Oh, you do? I didn't know that. Oops! Guess I'll stop posting the link to her blog, LOL!

    Julie- Thank you. Yeah, I don't think people pay enough attention to hooks, especially at the end of chapters.

    Glynis- Yay! I think a lot of people struggle with hooks, so it's great that yours are going smoothly =)

    Amber- Oh no! Sorry I made you want to change your prologue. If it makes you feel any better, I've read some very good books where the prologue is one of those. And I don't think that's a bad start at all. I wanted to keep reading to find out what happened with her dad and also for what happened =)

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  11. Keep posting stuff like this i really like it

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