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…)