Hook me!

Hey everyone! Heads still on a day after Halloween? If not, go get them and shrew. 😉

It’s NaNoWriMo…and I couldn’t care less. I’m not participating, because I hate writing under pressure and the outcome is never something to make me or any of my readers happy. But since it’s already the Writing Month, I’d like to take this as an occasion for a series of posts on the craft itself. I know, many of my fans are also writers, so if you come back once in a while in November, you’ll get great advice from a few fellow authors on how to write and use your wits.

Today I’ll start right off with


Bait me with your opening.

The opening is a seriously important part, if not the most, of your entire novel. Why? Because it decides whether your book will be bought in a minute or not. Some people say, the mass reader will grant you three paragraphs to hook them with your book. I say, you have exactly one line. If that line isn’t enough for me to be interested in why or how something turned out the way it has to get to this particular moment, I’ll most probably not even finish reading the first paragraph but shove the book back into the empty space on the shelf and grab the next.

Now, it’s not easy to come up with a line as meaningful and intriguing as that. So what can you do to find just the perfect trigger? At this point, I’d like to quote a friend of mine, who made me understand the importance of this quite a while ago. She said, “Try to sum up your entire novel in this very first line.” Duh, how impossible is that?

But then…is it really? In her novel, The Werewolf King, she managed to hook me with a few simple words.

Why, Josef, you make me think the world will end with your calling me here.

Right at this point I absolutely wanted to know A: What happened between her and Josef that calling her was such a great deal? And B: What was going on that the world was at stake?

The tricky thing with this line is, you already have an inkling of what the book will be about, even when you still have absolutely no idea what will come at you. So what do you do? – You read on, because you MUST find out.

One of the greatest hooks I came across was in Larry Brooks Bait and Switch.

All things considered, it was a great night to die.

Heck, what are all things? What led to this person’s acute death? Will he really die? After all, this is only the prologue and you never know about these things. Seriously, for me it can’t get any better than that.

However, if a complete novel in one line is too hard to do, then go for simple. Try to foreshadow the actual chapter, or maybe only the scene.

The previous weeks I’ve been critiquing a lot for another friend of mine. Her dark romances are my all time favorites and she’s excellent with hooks. This is from her yet unpublished novel Darkness Undone.

The sudden hush in the busy little café should have been his first clue that shit was about to fly.

Okay, let’s analyze this. With just a few simple words, she gave a variety of information. We know where the events take place, we get a glimpse at the atmosphere in the café when everyone tenses, and we know that in only a second, something big will happen. These are the three basic points. But there’s one more thing, and personally, to me this is the most important one that made me want to read on. It’s the hero’s voice. Hunter already revealed a very significant trait of this hero: sarcasm, and his relaxed attitude toward the crap going on in his life on a daily basis. I was intrigued by all these aspects in a heartbeat.

Other possibilities to ensnare your readers with the first line are: Shock. A very blatant statement or spicy compliment – this works especially for hot romances. Even humor. Whichever you choose, just put enough info into this line to make your reader guess about what’s coming at him, but don’t reveal too much. Because, like everywhere else, here it is: Less is more.

Joyful writing!


2 thoughts on “Hook me!

  1. Interesting how much emphasis is put on:”the hook”, I’ve purchased books in the past based on excellent hooks only to be disappointed by the end or even the middle of the book. “Twilight” for example has a great hook, but by the end of the book I was left dumb-folded, thinking hey where’s the conclusion. Then I found out the books are not stand alone and one must read the entire series to find out, why then start the first book with the kind of hook if she wasn’t going to close it?
    And it also confuses me, because some editors and readers and even workshop teachers seem to think that starting your novel with strong emotional chapter is not the way to go, since the reader is yet to get to know your characters and connect with them, and therefore at this early stage doesn’t care about them. So we need to ease the reader into the story. All things I’ve heard about writing make me believe in the old saying “different strokes for different folks”

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