View Full Version : The Hook
May 5th, 2004, 11:47 PM
When writing a tale, espically a short story, what is your prefered 'hook' for the story? What is it at the beginning of your story that you try to seduce the reader in with the entice them to read further?
On the same note, how to like to end your stories to cause an emotional state?
For hooks, I found I'm getting good starting near the end, then flashing back to bring the reader back to where the story started. I've done many short stories like this. I've also started a story in the midst of a battle and written frenzy-paced stories.
For endings, I was doing several 'death' stories where I kill off the main subject of the story. Those, for me, got dull. Maining and disfigurement also have grown dull. I have done some good twists where I lead the reader down a rosy path only to pull them in the opposite direction. All for the 'shock' ending. But I guess I'm asking my question because I'm growing bored with my own 'shockers'. Is this a good way to end a story? I've tried other endings, but don't get the same reaction from those.
So I bring it to the 'board'. What's your style of start and end?
I'm also posting this cuz I'm waiting on Jac to post a new exercise!
Hey Jac, an idea. For my daughter's weekly homework she's given a vocabulary list and must incoporate all her words into a story (every week). How about a 10-15 word vocabulary list and work those into a 500 word story?
May 6th, 2004, 07:15 AM
Well, I consider my characters much stronger than my plots, as a rule, so my beginning hook is usually getting the readers attached to a character or group or characters. For example, in Untitled, nothing terribly interesting happens in the first chapter, but you come to know the little quirks, cynicisms and the childhood of the main character, and it is the desire to see where he goes that (I feel anyway) would make a reader want to proceed.
As far as endings. Once I've made a reader intimately familiar with a character, I like to then put him in a place where he has a decision to make that is hard enough that the reader can't predict what he's going to choose. Sometimes I have a shocking twist of an ending, sometimes a happy one, sometimes a neutral one, but they all have in common the fact that they are, even with the wealth of information I convey about my characters, unpredictable, and thus interesting (I hope).
May 6th, 2004, 08:09 AM
I agree with Pax. Though sometimes, I like to mix it up, start near the end and work my way back then have the end. Sometimes, I want to get an idea across and the characters are more ciphers than 'real' people. But I do think that the best hooks are the ones were you can get the reader to identify with your main character, then the rest seems to fall into place.
May 6th, 2004, 08:11 AM
In the end I sometimes make the main character realize something that could've made a difference. Like with my latest short story: the main character realizes that IF he had said YES to a ghost, then he'd be gone by now (which he didn't know earlier). If done right it can give the reader a wonderful feeling, a mix of relief and stun. "Wow, that sure was close."
In general I don't like to end anything "the traditional way" and by that I mean happy all-is-well endings. I don't mean I want to destroy my characters' lifes but somehow it seems more natural for me to end stories with "compromises". Something is always left to hang or something has to be sacrificed to solve the problem - which troubles the main characters even in the ending. A good example of this would be my "soon-to-be-published" novel in which the main character seeks relief for his problem with the aid of his companions. In the end it is impossible for him to achieve that goal but he is offered something else, something morally questionable (he becomes a sort of a neutral aligned semi-god). He says it's ok for him and in the end his friends don't know what to feel.
May 6th, 2004, 01:23 PM
With respect to hooks:
It's usually my goal to get the reader to develop a vested interest in the character at the beginning of a story. It's not enough that the character just have a goal, but the reader needs to want to see him or her accomplish that goal. To do this I try to open with a situation the reader can empathise with.
For example in a current military SF story I open with a character undergoing an initiation. Many people can relate to some form of hazing in their lives. And it's a current topic of debate - is there any value to hazing? Should we adopt a stance of zero tolerance towards it because people can get hurt? Hopefully the arguments will draw the reader in.
Other situations I've used include a man escaping from his own hanging, the execution of a well-planned theft, a kid dumped on prom night, and a botched attack. I think I look for scenarios where the human drama comes through, but that aren't so intense that everything after seems like it doesn't measure up. (This is an aspect of my writing that I'm still working on.)
With respect to endings:
The end of a story is usually tied in to what I want to say with what I've written. I still believe in happy endings, even though I don't always use them. It's important to show how a character has grown or at least changed through a story. In my current project I want to show that loyalty is its own virtue and so the rewards that my character reaps for the decisions he makes will be internal rather than external.
It's important that my characters earn their endings, rather than have them bestowed. I like consequences. I think that readers will feel the impact of a story best when they see where it came from - whether they agree with it or not.
May 6th, 2004, 01:26 PM
I think big dramatic endings are the way to go. You certainly need big twists and an acceleration of the action. Cliffhangers are a necessity if u plan to write a follow on. One thing I don't believe in is an unhappy ending, some bits of it must be unhappy, but not all. Also I don't believe in 'oh yeah well he died and everything, but its still a happy ending coz the wider world is now safe.' Readers don't care about the wider world. They care about the characters. So, arch-villains must die and main heroes must live. thats the way it has to be in my book. (hehe, a pun)
May 8th, 2004, 11:22 PM
I like to start things with something already happening to characters. I hate reading stuff where there's information overload.
Ending wise, I like to do what Rod Serling did. He always had a twist at the end of his stuff. It usually involved seeing things from a different perspective or it was a be careful what you wish for or a you're screwed story. Too bad he died.
May 12th, 2004, 07:57 AM
I like to try and get in both character and plot, if at all possible. That's it really - I just want to make sure the reader will want to read on. I also like, if possible, to hint at the books major themes/plots.
Generally I like to resolve the 'promise' I made to the reader with the initial hook.
I'm not a big fan of cliffhanger endings - they can be very frustrating for a reader. I prefer it if trilogies/series wrap up at least some of the books goals, and just leave a few open. Massive cliffhangers are even more annoying if you have to wait another year for the second to come out. Also, from a writer's point of view, you can't always guarantee that a publisher will want a trilogy. Trilogies etc from newbies do still get signed up, but it's not easy and some places prefer standalones.
May 12th, 2004, 01:22 PM
I disagree on one point, I think publishers prefer trilogies to stand-alones in general. Only in the fantasy genre, of course. I can name very few stand-alone fantasy novels, and all those are by respected authors who already have trilogies/series out e.g. Eddings and Feist.
May 12th, 2004, 01:42 PM
You're correct, publishers do like series. They know fantasy readers like to read more of the same world, and more importantly, that they're prepared to pay for it. However, if they sign a trilogy from a new writer they are placing more money at risk than signing a trilogy from someone they know will sell.
If the second and third books are not written yet, they might not be any good, or the writer may fail to complete them. Even if they are good, the public may not buy into the first and the publisher is then stuck with something that is not selling. I wouldn't advise someone not to do a trilogy - there are still new writers who sell them, but I would say that in some cases writing a book that resolves most of the storyline, but has enough loose threads for a sequel if the publisher wants it, may be easier to sell than a book with a massive cliffhanger that means the publisher have to produce a second book or piss off readers. Does anyone get what I mean?
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