For my entries in the 2012 A to Z Challenge, I will be focusing on writing elements that I find important and that I want to incorporate into my work.
Today, the topic is HOOK.
Most writers are familiar with the adage that you have to quickly hook your reader. For an unpublished novelist, you may have at most one page to get a slush-reader, agent or publisher to keep on reading, and they've usually decided well before that. It's the same way with short stories, if not more so. I've heard that a paragraph or two is usually enough for a slush reader to decide if a piece is going to get past the slush gates. If they read the rest of the story, it usually serves to only reinforce that initial gut decision.
To many writers, this rush to judgment seems hopelessly unfair. But I actually understand the reasons and don't really have a problem with it. I'm often the same way when deciding what book to buy if I'm unfamiliar with an author or the title -- I'll skim the back blurb and then read chapter one for a bit, and it usually only takes a page or so. If I'm pulled in, I'll probably like the whole book. If not, it's stuck back on the shelf.
So I get it. It just means that as a writer, I need to do all I can to get my reader on the hook as fast as possible. But how to do that without resorting to cheap artificial gimmicks?
It's not that hard -- just start with an interesting scene.
No descriptions of the weather, no rambling historical back-story, no slow-paced scene-setting -- start mid-scene with identifiable characters engaged in something that arouses curiosity, tension, concern, and questions in the reader.
It doesn't have to be death, mayhem, car-chases, and explosions. Just something that seems interesting, intriguing, and gets the reader wondering, "What's going to happen next?"
I get that question from my reader and I'm home free.
Well, maybe not home free, but I've at least gotten them onto page two or three -- then I also have to give them spotless prose; gripping dialogue; compelling characters; and a dynamic plot that keeps them involved until the final word.
But that's the easy part, right?
Thanks for visiting -- see you the rest of this month for more alphabetical fun!
Don't forget to visit HERE to see all the bloggers taking part in this A-to-Z challenge, and try to drop in on as many of them as you can!