View Full Version : Making good hooks
March 11th, 2003, 07:08 PM
I am having trouble making a good hook. I have always been told to make the hook right in the middle of the action or use great imagery to capture the reader from the start. Otherwise, they'll find a book that will.
Well, my current project doesn't have room for action at the start. It begins with three people flying through a rather quiet part of space. Where's the action in that?
I was thinking of trying to capture the reader with telling a little bit about space, the backdrop of stars and colors in the distance. Then going on to describe the ship they are in, but it comes off sounding really boring stuff that doesn't need explained right away.
What is the best way to hook the reader?
March 11th, 2003, 07:34 PM
The best opening hooks set the mood of the story and offer a conflict or question. Blockbuster movies always start off in a wild attention grabbing action scene (someone is murdered, kidnapped, attacked, yelled at, chased etc) and while this works in books as well, it is not the only way.
Here are some quieter first sentences from books that set mood and offer hints at conflicts and questions immediately:
"Where's Papa going with that axe?" said Fern to her mother as they were setting the table for breakfast."
For a short while during the year I was ten, I thought only people I did not know died.
The noise of a helicopter at night fills the whole world.
They all reckon I'm a worm.
These writers have vastly different styles and genres but each of them sets a mood and leaves the reader wondering.
March 11th, 2003, 10:02 PM
In my opinion, the best hooks are the ones where you read a couple paragraphs, go to put the story down, but then realize that you can't stop thinking about what's going to happen.
Gunghis had some excellent examples.
Just as a thought on your particular story, one piece of advice I heard a while ago was this: things that work aren't always as interesting as things that don't.
So you're flying through space. They could discover and air leak that's slowly pushing the ship off course. Or maybe they're low on oxygen because a valve on one of the tanks is broken - which won't be a problem now, but on the return trip there's only enough air for two - not three. It doesn't have to be life-threatening to be interesting. What happens if a toilet backs up in microgravity?
If you want to hook with description - think about what's unique about this environment compared to your standard SF novel. What if one of the crew had bad BO? How are they shielding themselves against cosmic radiation (or are they)?
Just some thoughts.
March 12th, 2003, 01:59 AM
In addition to what you've mentioned you can also add in a little mystery.
I think the imagery is all about creating mood. Someone correct me if they feel differently, but if the imagery you use has no emotion behind it then it’s pointless. Admittedly, most of the time writers try use imagery to just generate awe in the readers.
I've noticed when books sometimes start slowly they're able to do so and still maintain your attention by hinting there’s something interesting you will find out and only giving hints at what it is. You make the reader start guessing on those hints and as long as you’re not too slow that will keep them interested for a while. They’ll keep reading to see if they’re right in what they guessed.
Offcourse, different people like different styles. There’s mood, action, or mystery at the start of a story to grab attention in most books. I’m not sure, but I think the good writers usually combine two or more of the above to achieve an interesting start.
“The wind stirred up disquiet in a dusty corner of the lands.”
Generates the mood of possible discord and unease, and also suggests there’s something interesting to discover. Obviously something is the cause of disquiet in the lands, and now the reader is left with the mystery of what that could be. You can then proceed to give hints of what it could be in subsequent lines.
Did you say three people flying in a quiet part of space?
“In the vast emptiness of space a tiny speck drifted in the darkness. Three souls together on board a diminutive spacecraft, yet it seemed light years separated them.”
The mood is loneliness surrounding them, outside the spacecraft with physical distance and inside the spacecraft because of their differences or their pasts. The reader is now wondering, Why are they light years apart? Are they really that messed up in the head? Possibly ghosts in their respective pasts?
Next I guess you start dropping in hints on what is bothering them while introducing your characters.
You probably won’t use my example, but I hope that my post helps you head in the right direction.
PS: If you agree with what I'm said say so, if you don't I'm interested in knowing why. Life's a learning experiment.
March 12th, 2003, 03:57 AM
I like the idea of a quiet start, the silence of space and just these three characters sounds intrigueing already. As long as you get the dialogue right and make me care about these characters, I will read on.
I already know about stars and space, so don't waffle for the sake of it. The heart of your story at this juncture lies within the craft, in the silence, with three characters I want to know more about. If they are arguing, pondering, dying... Describe it to me, I WANT TO KNOW!!!
See, you can do it without action...
Read the first page of the Hobbit, that's a great example.
March 12th, 2003, 03:57 AM
How about having the crew talking about something interesting, then introduce the setting to the reader so they don't think from the word go its in space. Instead of: description about space - description of characters - description of ship etc. Just a suggestion. Just don't be too formulaic with starting the story.
March 12th, 2003, 10:32 AM
There are many ways to start a piece of work:
Descriptive: Drawing the reader into the scene.
A raven raised its head and for a second locked its cold gaze on the dull orb struggling over the eastern horizon. But the bird soon forgot the emerging day and returned its attention to the reason it was in this place.
The ebb and flow of the previous day’s battle had turned the autumn tinted valley into a charnel house. Many had fallen; they lay in scattered groups stacked up against one another like winter kindling.
A shroud of morning mist now hung over the landscape, its delicate wisps softening the brutal edge of the battlefield. Under this coverlet shadowy figures moved, but not all of them with good intent.
With dialogue: Plunging the reader right into the mddle of what ever is going on.
“What? Noooo. I don’t believe it!” Mage Thomason’s voice boomed in the stern cabin of the deep-sea trading vessel. “I don't think that...did you cheat? You must have cheated!”
“Not this time,” Albert drawled as he leaned back in his chair and took a long draft from his glass.
The thing is to have something that makes the reader want to read on after the first page.
I try to use something that would make me turn he page.
March 12th, 2003, 12:48 PM
How does this sound?
Amongst the darkness of deep space, a spaceship blasted its way through. At the helm was a duality of adventurers, best friends and worst enemies.
And then it goes on to the two-man crew having a drink and talking about their mission.
March 12th, 2003, 05:54 PM
Both of John's examples interested me. Personally, I skip right over flowery language and get right to the meat. Just a few words of description that actually shows me what is happening is what I need. I like stories not words.
And as far as a hook is concerned, mystery is very important. As mentioned above, keep the reader wondering and they are already involved.
March 12th, 2003, 06:18 PM
Two things, Drewby, for me anyway, and I am just one voice - yours as writer is always the one you should listen to above all others.
One, three are often more rewarding than two as a dynamic in which to write. There can be so many more conflicts, thoughts, clashing emotions, stories of childhood, whatever it is you are writing about.
Two, the travel through space is not the most important element, by which I mean I don't think you need to anounce it up front. Indeed letting the reader know your characters' setting through their interaction with them could be a better way to approach it. Let your readers wonder why your characters are in a relatively enclosed space/trapped together/with each other whether they like it or not etc, rather than announce their situation. You might find it more satisfying as a writer, and your readers will engage more.
Thing to remember is, your characters already know where they are and only acknowledge it through reference to what is happening around them that moment. What about something like...
'So did you make the call or did you just leave her wondering if you cared?' Jack turned from the screen. Space was space after this long but for the first time in days, Rob had said something with real life behind it. Something that did more than reaffirm the suspended existence they found themselves inhabiting. An existence only romantic to those not living it.
That's not too polished but what I'm trying to get across is people discussing their lives against a backdrop of the endless. Same as the darkness of deep space but more human.
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