Writing Tips: Writing Chapter Hooks

This is part two of “Writing Hooks,” based on the workshop notes by Bunny Hansen, a Writers in the Grove member. If you haven’t read part one, please do so as it contains many notes and resources for understanding more about the writing of opening hooks.

Hooks can be found anywhere in the telling or a story. These hooks keep the reader reading and carry them through from sentence to sentence, paragraph to paragraph, page turning page, and pulling the reader through the book, chapter after chapter.

An example of a foreshadowing (okay, blatant foreshadowing) is found in the new book, “The Martian,” by Andy Weir, a statement that not only keeps the reader reading, but they now know what is coming, and based upon what has come so far in the book, they know it is going to be a fun ride.

Everything went great right up to the explosion.

The satirical nature of Weir’s writing and the strength of his first person character is found throughout the book, excellent examples of character-driven hooks, and readers keep reading for those precious ironic gems such as this much quoted passage at the midpoint of the book.

I need to ask myself, ‘What would an Apollo astronaut do?’ He’d drink three whiskey sours, drive his Corvette to the launchpad, then fly to the moon in a command module smaller than my Rover. Man those guys were cool.

And this prime example of voice, style, and character after using his own body waste to start a garden of potatoes:

They say once you grow crops somewhere, you have officially ‘colonised’ it. So technically, I colonised Mars.

In your face, Neil Armstrong!

In the trailer for the movie from the book, examine the use of hooks that not only ask questions but keep the viewer watching.

An example of foreshadowing is found in this excerpt from “To Kill a Mocking Bird” by Harper Lee in the early section of the story:

I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.

The lawyer, Atticus Finch, tells his children that it is better to be noble than take arms, proving it when he takes a case sure to fail by defending Boo Radley because it is the right thing to do. The reader easily sees into the heart of the character and feels compassion for him. You feel his courage and determination, a warrior with the law as his only weapon, and you keep reading on. (more…)


Writing Techniques: Writing Hooks

The following are the notes from the presentation on writing hooks by Writers in the Grove member, Bunny Hansen. The two hour workshop presented in August 2015 was based upon extensive research by Bunny on the variety of hooks used in writing, with tips on how to write such hooks. Writers in the Grove thanks Bunny for sharing her notes with us.

In part two, Bunny covers the hooks found throughout a story or novel, focusing also on the hooks at the ends of chapters.

There is art in the writing of hooks and story openings. They are found in poems, short stories, fiction, and non-fiction. Even editorial articles begin with strong hooks that compel the reader to keep reading. Some are written by the author in the beginning, a thought that leads to the opening of a story, and others are crafted, each word considered carefully, tested among readers, torn apart and glued together to make the reader dive into the words.

A good hook sets the tone, the way the author expresses his attitude toward the subject, characters, action, and setting. Tone can be ironic, sarcastic, personal, impersonal, melancholy, joyous, angry, contemptuous, frightening, etc. Here are some of the characteristics of a well-written hook:

  • Ideally the opening sentence.
  • An attention-getter.
  • Creates a bond of interest, giving the reader a reason to care and invest in reading the story.
  • Says, “Drop everything you’re doing and read me right now.”
  • Draws a reader into the action and the message, making him a part of the story or piece.

A good hook always asks a question whether implicitly or explicitly. The question is what makes an opening a hook. The body of your work (fiction, nonfiction, novel, essay, article, poem, book or music) answers the questions raised by the hooks. A good hook, thus a good question, engages the reader, and they spend the rest of the book seeking answers to those initial questions.

Consider the questions raised in the opening lines of the acclaimed and award-winning book, “Ender’s Game,” by Orson Scott Card.

I’ve watched through his eyes, I’ve listened through his ears, and I tell you he’s the one. Or at least as close as we’re going to get.

Who is this person speaking? How are they watching and listening through this character? What could have that much power? Who is the one? Why is he the one? One for what? And why are we settling for this one? Have we run out of time? The questions just keep coming in the reader’s mind. (more…)

August 24, 2015 Monday Workshop: Literary Hooks

Writers in the Grove member Bunny Hansen will be presenting a writing workshop on Literary Prompts on Monday, August 24, 2015, at the Forest Grove Senior and Community Center at 9AM to 11AM.

Literary hooks are the opening sentence or sentences within novels, prose, and poetry that grab the attention of the reader and keep them reading, compell them to keep reading.

This is a repeat of her successful presentation presented at a recent Saturday Writing Workshop at the Forest Grove Library.

See you there.

The Inciting Event

The Monday morning workshop recently focused on scriptwriting, specifically tracing inciting events and the patterns of storytelling for television, film, and even books.

An inciting event in a plot is the shift forward in a story, the twist, hook, and plot points of the story.

K.M. Weiland, author of the book, “Structuring Your Novel,” helps us understand the confusion in and around an inciting event in a story in “Your Book’s Inciting Event: It’s Not What You Think It Is” on Helping Writers Become Authors.

What the heck is the Inciting Event? That’s a question just about any writer can answer. The trouble is that sometimes we all have a different answer.

Is the Inciting Event the first thing that happens in the story?

Is it the moment that kicks off the plot and the conflict?

Is it the First Plot Point at the end of the First Act?

Is it something in between?

Is it something that happens before the story ever starts?

The chief trouble with identifying the Inciting Event is that the term is used rather wildly to apply to just about any of the above. One writer calls the Hook the Inciting Event, another calls it the First Plot Point. Argh! No wonder we’re all so confused.

Weiland demonstrates three examples.

  • The Hook: The opening moment in your opening scene, the first moment something happens that keeps the reader reading or “hooked.”
  • The First Plot Point: The thing that happens at the end of the first act that changes the course of the story. She calls it “where your story really begins…the moment that fully engages your character in the conflict. He couldn’t walk away now, even if he really wanted to.”
  • First Act Turning Point: This is the moment that is the “call to” adventure or action, the no-turning-back point, the lit-match moment. She explained that most writer’s don’t include nor think of the turning point in the first act as the inciting incident, but it is. It is the moment that can be pointed to throughout the rest of the story, the moment when everything was shaken up and decisions needed to be made and action inspired. This is the inciting event.

Weiland explained that the first act turning point, or inciting event, should be placed at the 12% mark or 1/8th the way into the story. The first eighth of the story is character development, the time the audience needs to connect with the main characters, the time, and the place, the set up. (more…)