Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Hooking the reader . . .



Slowing the pace or resolving the conflict – any conflict, even a little one – at the end of the chapter or scene gives your reader an opportunity to put your book down and turn off the light. Bad news for any author aspiring who has designs on the New York Times Best Seller list.

Make your readers hang around and hang on, forcing them to read through what would be a natural place to break.

How to?

Use strong hooks.


As writers, we want to finish the thought and build to the end always pushing the conflict up the next notch. So resolution is the last thing that needs to happen at the end of a chapter. Break the action right in the middle, leave the reader asking the question, ‘What happens next?’ or even ‘OMG, I’ve got to find out more.’, and you’ll provide all the incentive readers need to keep . . . well, to keep reading.

Answers are a must – but only in small doses. Weave in the answer through the beginning of the next chapter or scene, or leave the thread dangling until the reader absolutely needs to know in order to increase believability.


At this point, my critique group is accessing my WIP, TRICKLE OF LIES, in chunks. Reading through the first 100 pages for posting, I noticed a number of chapter hooks that were designed to keep my readers forging through to the next page.

I picked a random hook: Boston Donavan waited for the first sheet to finish printing from his fax machine before snagging the page. The ‘receive’ light glowed amber as another piece of paper rolled into the printer. Across the cover page, Dump (his deputy) had scrawled notations regarding the origin of the documents.
A second sheet popped free and Boston immediately recognized the Austin police letterhead. It took only minutes to scan the contents then he crumbled the page’s edge in his fist.
With a glare, he focused on his closed bedroom door. As though he could see the woman lying in his bed, he swore. “Son of a bitch, she’s lied to me again.”


Does the reader know what’s on the pages printed from Boston’s fax? Nope, but they know it has to do with a police department and that whatever has been revealed means he’s been deliberately lied to, or at the least, misled and the woman doing the lying is in his bed. Uh-oh. This hook is designed to keep the reader moving forward and pushing toward the end of the book.
Share a hook from your WIP, or one from your favorite book.


As always, you’re welcome to drop by my back porch. Actually, it’s cooling off a little here in Texas. BBQ is on the grille and beer in the cooler. Drop on by anytime.

Until next time
~Sandra

7 comments:

Mary Malcolm said...

Very good, Sandra! I love the blog...I think I'll have to put a posted note on my computer now, "Get Hooky" or something. *grin*

I looked back through my chapters and it seems I always have strong beginnings, and very sweet ends. Not the same kind of hooky as your's, but hooky in a different way. Does that make sense? There's so much going on in the chapters, that by the time you get to the sweet end, you just have to see what's happening next. *grin* Or at least that's what I'm hoping for. Not as hooky as yours though. I'll have to see if I can't beef up the hook factor.

Here's the end of Chapter 8 in Almost Home:

Shaking her head she said, “No no, no way. You have a job, and I have a job.” She pushed past him before continuing, “And now I have a date.”

“Charlie?”

“Not that it’s any of your business.” She still stung from his rejection after they’d been together, and she wanted to be understanding. It was just that understanding sucked.

He followed her out to her truck. “Okay, you don’t have to tell me who the date is, but are you going anywhere special with him?”

“Yes.” She opened her door and tossed the briefcase over to the passenger side.

“Dinner plans?”

“Yes.” She pulled herself up into the cab and straightened her skirt. Then she looked at him. “Anything else, counselor?”

“I might have plans tonight too, you know.”

“Well, I hope you enjoy yourself!” Sliding the key into the ignition, she waved him away. As he stepped back, she pulled the door shut and started the truck.

“Have a good night on your date,” he called as she drove away.

She couldn’t help but grin, his reaction felt kind of like jealousy. And that felt kind of nice.

Sue L said...

Great post Sandra, I have a terrible problem getting hooky endings. I always want to tie up the chapter like a pretty package so I can pat it on the head and take a breath before I go to the next one. I know it's a problem and I'm working with it. I know it seems to come naturally to some people, but it's hard for me.

naida said...

great post!
I totally agree, the reader needs to be hooked on the story to want to keep reading.

http://thebookworm07.blogspot.com/

Marilyn Brant said...

I always loved the hook on the last page of High Five (the 5th Janet Evanovich book in the Stephanie Plum series). We don't know which of the two men in Stephanie's life is the one to arrive at her door. Here it is:

"Howdy," I said.
He looked amused at that, but not amused enough to smile. He stepped forward into the foyer, closed the door, and locked it. His breathing was slow and deep, his eyes were dark, his expression serious as he studied me.
"Nice dress," he said. "Take it off."

And we don't get to find out which man it is or what happens next until Book 6! Ahhhhh :-).

Sandra Ferguson said...

Whoa! I'm fanning myself here, Marilyn. I'm not sure I'd care who seduced me out of my dress, as long as he used those words. GRIN!

Thanks for sharing everyone.

L.A. Mitchell said...

I can't possibly top Marilyn's comment. I'll keep it in mind for the day when I write a series :)

Sherry Davis said...

Amazing hooks. That Stephanie Plum really has a way with the men. And I love and admire the way Janet E always pushes the envelope with her characters, too.

This is from online friend Stephanie Rowe's first book in her Dragon series: Date me Baby One More Time chapter one hook.

He hoped she tried to kill him first. Then he could behead her with a clean conscience. Murder in the first degree wasn't exactly befitting of a pretzel mogul. And what was the point of dodging th eCurse if he had ot spend the rest of his life in prison dodging ...well ... yeah. Probably best not ot think aobut that.
First things first. Find the Guardian. Deal with the rest later.

Texas sayings

~Watch your step! Cacti, tumbleweeds, and an occasional armadillo might be ahead.

~Welcome to the land of tar-bubbling summers, gas-guzzling pickup trucks, standard Stetson headgear, and mile-high hair.

~Welcome to the Lone Star State, and Romance With A Texas Twist!

Quote of the Day