Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Hook

When I was in school, we were always taught that a good story should have a hook, something that draws in the reader and makes them want to read more.  We were told that a reader will judge in the first paragraph or so whether or not they want to keep reading.  Our hooks were mostly mundane, typically fifth grade sort of stuff.  You know, 'It was a dark and stormy night...' that sort of thing.  As I have progressed as a writer (not a particularly talented one or anything, but anyways), I have found that a hook is really more of a way to keep yourself engaged as a writer and a reader.  It sparks your imagination and it brightens the path on which your literary journey will continue.  Sometimes it's at a brisk pace, sometimes it's a gentle trot, sometimes it's a deadening walk, and sometimes it's a maddening gallop.  You don't know where you'll end up, but you know it'll be something.

Some of my favorite books have mundane openings.  I favor books that really inform me about the every day lives of the characters with whom I am interacting.  Sure I want to hear about the big episodes in their lives, but mostly I want to live with them and get to know them on a day to day basis.  I find that's where you really learn about a character and learn to love them.   My favorite book, Little Women, begins like this:

"Christmas won't be Christmas without any presents," grumbled Jo, lying on the rug.  "It's so dreadful to be poor!"  sighed Meg, looking down at her old dress.  "I don't think it's fair for some girls to have plenty of pretty things, and other girls nothing at all," added little Amy, with an injured sniff.   "We've got Father and Mother, and each other," said Beth contentedly from her corner.

A simple introduction to four of the most famous sisters in literary history.  A brief look into their lives at a simple moment in time.  I think that's why I try to write like that.  Start the story in the middle of something.  It gives you a place to go forward from and a place to go back, which I think is also very important.  Sometimes, the simplest things are the best.

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