In this article we will speak of writing methods that will keep your readers on the edge of their seats or send them looking for something else to read depending on how you use them. As avid readers and published authors ourselves, this is something we here at Jekyllhydeclub have given serious consideration to. As when making or selling an item, the best in the business is the avid shopper as they know what they want and don’t want. Same goes for reading/writing. This is geared toward fiction/books or short stories but it can most definitely apply to a blog as well.
Think of what books or short stories you really loved reading and why. Then narrow the question down to asking yourself what about the initial part kept you reading or having you saying “never mind,” and going off to read something more palatable. Why did you like it right away, what had you hooked about the style and way the story was being presented? On the other end of that, in those stories that could not keep your interest what about them and their presentation had you saying ‘screw this,’?
Like a pirate, you need a good, no excellent hook!
It is always good to hook the reader right away to ensure they don’t lose interest as finishing your story is kinda the point. Though the hook can be trickier than you think. There are several types of hooks, some good and bad and we’re going to cover them all here.
1. The invisible hook. This is not the hook you want as it’s basically not there at all. The story drags in the first few pages and nothing happens, nothing interesting is indicated, perhaps there is some necessary background information that the reader will need later, but it could be presented in a way that is more entertaining cause they’re not hooked now. When writing don’t think of later, think of yourself and if you would still be reading after the first few paragraphs or not. If not, think of what it needs objectively and find a creative way to make that happen. You can do that. You are a writer, after all, else you’d not be reading this now…unless you’re just really board, which we can dig…
Your reasons for a hook that tip toes are not relevant or useful to the reader because they may never stick around to find out why the dull boring and perhaps tedious first few pages really held such deep and necessary info. Remember they don’t know the future of this magnificent work the way you do. They know nothing so they need to find a reason to stick around, and it is entirely up to you to provide that reason.
2. THE SUBTLE HOOK. This isn’t always as easy to write but it is good and it works. The subtle hook is for those stories that do build up to things rather than being able to dive right into the midst of some intense action. Each story is its own person, or entity and they tell themselves in the way they wish to be presented. So if the story or the narrating character is telling you that, no this story can’t just plunge right into IT, at least not without ruining the feel you’re after, okay. That’s fine. But you need the subtle hook. In the subtle hook you are starting out mild enough, but something is being dropped to keep the reader intrigued, or raising brows. If the scene presents itself as a slow build up, you need to toss in some interesting facts or tidbits. For example, if your character needs to wake up, have coffee, and drive to work as something happens when they get there that needs to be shown, drop something interesting about the character via dialog or their own thoughts during the wake up or cup of coffee. If they are going o decide to solve crimes because of trauma they could be thinking how at least being tortured in highschool may have changed their views on most things, but they could still benefit from caffeine, and required a lot of it. One way in which they can relate to the rest of the world still.
Now the reader is thinking, “Damn, tortured in highschool? Like how?’ and they’ll keep reading.
Or if your character is a vampire and that’s no secret, yet the beginning of the book needs to be more slow, mention that bit right up front. Though the smell of coffee was tempting, it didn’t do much for a vampire, so Karen forced herself to ignore it. So right away we know this character is a vampire and we’re wondering where she works and why and we will keep reading.
3. THE KILLING HOOK. This may sound good, but it’s not. Killing in this case means it’s so big and vicious that you have killed the interest of the reader. You make such a big explosive entrance that the reader feels overwhelmed and confused. They are wondering if the rest of the story is going to be this confusing and overwhelming and they are likely to not want to risk it and just stop reading entirely…for good…for ever!
What makes a Killing Hook you ask? It’s when you try so hard to make a big flashy grab for the attention of your audience that you pile too much info and too much action onto their minds all at once. It feels to them as if they’re missing something or as if the author is piling an e entire novel’s worth of info into a few paragraphs. Your reader is wondering if they maybe started reading in the middle of a series as it feels like there is entirely too much going on for this to be a true beginning.
It sort of feels the way it looks when you see someone with entirely too much jewelry on. Like you can’t admire each piece as there is so much clutter you can’t really pick out one from another. Then it’s just ugly when it comes down to it. A true case of you can’t see the forest for the trees.
There is no build up. You’re thinking, but if a good story grabs the reader right away, and too much of a build up is boring, wtf? Well that is a good question and leads into our final hook.
4. THE MEAT HOOK! This is juicy and delicious like your favorite burger or stake, and because of this, you will keep eating…ur reading! This gives you a nice big point of information that is so intriguing or shocking that you can’t resist reading on to find out what is going on. Notice I said one bit of information. One big bang, a single bang, not a long roaring barrage of info of the sort presented in THE KILLING HOOK.
Karen’s hands were shaking as she handed her boss his third cup of coffee because she didn’t know how to tell him that there was a human head in the toilet…a talking human head!
Hell after that you could probably get away with at least a few paragraphs of boring background with a hook like that. One or two really captivating lines is all you need. Not too much info, but really good info right off the bat, or hook as it were.
So we hope you have gathered that hooks 2 and 4 are the ones you most desire and the others are the sort you wish to avoid. When you write something and you begin working on your second draft, keep this in mind. If the beginning lags just think of how to fiddle with it until it has a good hook and it will truly build your confidence in the story. In your ability to sell it as well as in how it shall be received by others.