Tag Archives: hooks

Craft Tuesday: Hooks, part 2

First, let’s do a little review from January’s blog:  what is a hook in writing?  I bet you know this so I’m going to pause while you think of an answer. . . 

At the beginning of a novel or a chapter, a hook is like a fishing lure, it pulls you in, it makes you want to read more.    It’s the first few words or sentences that pull the reader into the story and makes you buy THAT book, not another.  Has anyone opened a book, read the first line and put back?  Why?   I’d guess it’s because the beginning doesn’t hook you, doesn’t promise you a good story or the kind of story you like.

But you knew this all of this.  Let’s look at two opening hooks that work well. 

SUSAN ELIZABETH PHILLIPS It Had to Be You  “Phoebe Somerville outraged everyone by bringing a French poodle and a Hungarian lover to her father’s funeral.”

ANN GEORGE Murder Boogies with Elvis  “I was lying on my stomach under the kitchen sink, eating a peanut butter and banana sandwich and listening to Vivaldi’s ‘Spring’ when icy cold hands grasped my ankles.”

These are great for two reasons.  First, they make us wonder:  Why would this woman bring a French poodle and her Hungarian lover to her father’s funeral?   Who grabbed this woman’s ankles?   We want to read on because we want to know WHY? Second, they work well for the genre.  I love Susan Elizabeth Phillips women’s fiction and Ann George’s humorous mysteries.  These opening lines promise that these are exactly the kind of books I love.

Don’t you hate it when authors use their own books as examples?  I do, too, but I’m going to anyway.  And I do have a good reason.   This is the first line of my first Love Inspired, The Path to Love.  “Francie Calhoun learned to pick pockets when she was five, mark cards at eight and how to hotwire a car years before she could get an driver’s license.”  Does this opening make you wonder about this heroine?   Do you wonder more because this sentence is the beginning of an inspirational novel?  Often an opening that doesn’t promise what other books in the genre works well to catch the readers’ attention. 

The second reason is because my original idea for a book usually comes as an opening line.  My first idea for the beginning The Path to Love was, “Francie Calhoun met Jesus and the devil on the same afternoon.”  I love that line-but as I wrote the story, it no longer fit.  I had to cut it, completely.  That hurt.  But even if you have the best opening hook that has ever been published, if it doesn’t work with the novel, get rid of it.

Next month:  hooks between chapters.  An opening hook involves the reader in the story.  Internal links keep the reader going.   How do you do that?


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.