Tag Archives: Craft Tuesday

Everything I learned about writing I learned on TiVo: Hooks

My husband says I am probably the greatest TiVo-er who has ever lived.   If I want to skip a commercial when I replay my programs, I know exactly when to begin to fast forward  because, immediately before the commercial, there is a hook, something that will bring you back to the program even if you’re slurping down a huge dish of ice cream on have taken  a potty break.  Whatever gets you to keep watching, to stay with or come back to the television is the hook.  Try it yourself—if you are nearly as good a TiVo-er as I am, you recognize the hooks at the end of a section but you may not have realized that’s the hook.  Look for it and learn from it.

On NCIS, it’s easy.  The picture freeze, the color changes to black and white, and the view wonders, “Why does he have that look on his face?”.  If the action or line makes the watcher helped wonder, it’s a hook.   When the action or the line brings the viewer back, that’s a successful hook. 

In Psych,  the program always begins with something Sean’s father, a retired cop, taught Sean when he was a kid.  The hook is the viewer wonders how Sean uses that to catch the criminal.

The hook is often a question, this one from CSI New York. “How did the only man who was not in the fight end up dead?”

Here are a few end of the chapter hook bys some of my favorite writers and some I’ve written to illustrate the point.  You will notice those by my favorite authors are good.  In my opinion, these two nearly force me to keep reading.

Harley Jane Kozak A Date You Can’t Refuse   “It actually helped having a plan of sorts and two people who knew what I was up to. . .  The comfort didn’t last.  It may have been an ocean breeze wandering a few blocks inland, but I was cold suddenly, and I found myself looking around, feeling as if someone was watching me.”

Rhys Bowen Her Royal Spyness   “I picked something from my skirt.  It was a piece of strong black thread. . .It dawned on me that someone could have strung it across the top of those steps. . .My attacker was indeed in the house with me.”

I love romantic suspense.  Obviously the two examples above are from RS.  Hooks in RS are easier to write because there’s suspense in the book.

But I’m not going to stop with that.  Come back the first Tuesday in February for more on hooks–if, of course, I remember.


Dear friends. . .

I have not been a good blogger.  Last week I was sick and didn’t even realize what day it was.  This week I didn’t get much productive done.  I DID write a few pages on the fourth Butternut Creek book which has the exciting title of The Construction Crew of Butternut Creek, in the hope I’ll just in case I get another contract.    I also worked on promo and cleaned house and . . . well, other stuff that wans’t a lot of fun.  

However, next week I’ll be awake and well and, perhaps, even bright.  Both my teams–University of Louisville and Kansas State–are in MAJOR bowl games so I’ll be watching a lot of football.

Tuesday will be CRAFT TUESDAY.  After that, I’m going to blog on what I DID buy George for Christmas and I’m a little embarrassed about that.

Wishing you all the happiest of holidays and all the best in the new year!    

Craft Tuesday: Character Driven Plotting

People always ask me, “Where do you find your ideas?’

After swallowing several snarky answers, I say, “They just come to me.”  Sorry if that sounds as if I’m still being snarky but it’s the truth.  And usually—nearly always—what comes to me is the character not the plot.  After the idea comes to me, often the beginning of the novel with the main characters fairly firmly created and in place, I build a plot for those characters to wander around in.

For me, this is the definition of character driven plotting.  It works best for me because I am able to wrap the plot around the character not forced to shove characters into the plot, often against their wills and come up with odd motivations and conflicts which don’t come from the characters but from the writer.

In my opinion, you can tell if the novel is plot driven or character driven if the heroine has to rationalize and explain why she’s doing what she’s doing—often over and over.  If her action comes from who she is as a character, we KNOW why she does this because the writer has introduced us to her and her traits.    If the action doesn’t fit this, if it is a twist on her character, a line or two will have us accept it.  If, however, the author has to have her act this way to promote the plot driven story, there will be several explanation and, to me, this interrupts the plot of the story.  On the other hand, if the characters drive the narrative, there may be some holes in the plot but–we believe–the characters are so charming the reader won’t care.  At least, that’s our excuse and our hope.

For example—and this is completely made up:

PLOT DRIVEN:   Mary is a grade school teacher who discovers a body on her front porch and decides to find the killer.  WHY?  I read this so often.  Most of us call the police and allow them to take over.   What motivates her?  Curiosity  and stupidity seem to be the answers but the author needs this to happen or she has no book.  The motivation really belongs to the writer and her dedication to the plot.  Over and over, friends tell her this is dangerous but Mary gives many reasons she give for doing this, none of which come from who she is but the plot.  Without her investigation, there is no story.

CHARACTER DRIVEN:  Mary is a grade school teacher who discovers the body of her best friend on her front porch and decides to look into this because the police have written this off as suicide.    She has no plan to find the killer but she knows her friend isn’t suicidal and wants to know what happened.   The investigation is more or less forced upon her.   What motivates her?  Love for her friend, the desire to know the truth, traits we already know because we’ve met Mary and observed her with her friend.  We know as a teacher, she’s not a daring type—I say this as a teacher—that she usually plays by the rules and respects authority so she must have a good reason to do this—not just take off on a lark.

What does the writer need to do if he/she wants to build a character drive plot? 

1)         Get to know the character and let her lead the way. 

2)         Introduce the character to the reader with some short scenes so the motivation makes sense.  

3)         Know the characters so deeply that they interact without the intervention or explanation of the writer.   This step came as a complete surprise to me in THE WEDDING PLANNERS OF BUTTERNUT CREEK, the third book in the Butternut Creek series–no cover available yet.  I introduce Janey Firestone in the first book,  THE WELCOME COMMITTEE OF BUTTERNUT CREEK  and Hannah Jordan in the third book.  Somehow, Janey becomes the catalyst for the changes that takes place in Hannah.  I hadn’t planned that.

If your characters don’t surprise you with their actions, then you haven’t written a character driven plot.  If your characters don’t take over the story and lead in another direction than you had chosen, you aren’t listening to them. 

In a character driven plotting, the characters really do take over.  Let them!






The first Tuesday of each month, I present a blog on the craft of writing.   I do this because many of my friends are writers.  However, I blog on this topic only once a month because many are not!

The first topic is on query letters.   Tomorrow is Part Two which covers the first two paragraphs of the query letter.  

Hope you’ll drop by!