Thursday, May 10, 2007

Hooks Aren't Just For Fishing

By Heather Moore

Have you been tempted to send an agent or publisher your third chapter—because that's where your story gets really good? If there isn’t a Hook on page one of your book, the agent has no reason to read page two.

But a Hook isn’t just a one-time event. There should be essentially three Hooks in your book and four if you count your query.

1. Hook—1st sentence/page
2. Hook—why you read the next chapter
3. Hook—why you are reading to the end of the book
4. Hook—in query letter, why the agent will start reading your sample chapters

Hook One:
Read these opening Hooks:

Unsung Lullaby
by Josi Kilpack
Maddie took a sip of lemonade while looking at the circle of women surrounding her. They talked and laughed, enjoying the chance to get out of their homes, away from their families, and to bask in the company of women for the evening—even if it was just a baby shower.
Maddie was not one of them.

*Do you want to know why Maddie isn’t “one of them”? I do. What sets her apart from the others? What trial is she facing or what fear is she trying to overcome?

Drowning Ruth by Christina Schwarz
Ruth remembered drowning.
“That’s impossible,” Aunt Amanda said. “It must have been a dream.”
But Ruth maintained that she had drowned, insisted on it for years, even after she should have known better.

*This piques my interest immediately. People die when they drown. That’s what it means. So how is Ruth different? And how can she remember drowning and still be alive?

Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier
My mother did not tell me they were coming. Afterwards she said she did not want me to appear nervous. I was surprised, for I thought she knew me well. Strangers would think I was calm. I did not cry as a baby. Only my mother would note the tightness along my jaw, the widening of my already wide eyes.

*Something terrible is happening to the character. She refuses to cry, but we know she is afraid. I want to find out what’s going on.

Hook Two:
Does your first chapter end in a tidy bow? Or does it end in the middle of a scene—just when your character hears footsteps in the basement, or the good-looking man she was attracted to minutes before pulls out a gun?

End your chapter/s in the middle of a scene. Do not give the agent a reason to put your manuscript down.

Hook Three:
There needs to be a main Hook that carries through the entire book. If you are writing a mystery, the main hook is finding out “who dunnit”. If you are writing a romance, the main hook is how the hero and heroine finally resolve their differences and come together.

Hook Four:
Recently Fangs Fur & Fey—Urban Fantasy Novelists held a Hook contest. The writers were asked to introduce their book in 300 words or less. Over 200 hooks were submitted for judging. You can read them all on-line:

Your query must contain a hook that introduces your book to the agent while at the same time captivates her interest. Most agents don’t have time to read your query and sample chapters. If she isn't impressed with the query, don't count on her reading your chapters.


Lu Ann Brobst Staheli said...

Thanks for the reminder, Heather. I've been working on using an internal plot mopdel for the book I'm currently writing, and now I need to play with the chapter resolution part so they act as hooks to the next chapter rather than tidy wrap-ups to an episode.

Lu Ann Brobst Staheli said...

You know, I love writing on this laptop, but sometimes it adds crazy letters to my writing that I don't always catch before the message hits post.