Friday, August 8, 2008

Writing Lessons: The Hook by Lucynda Storey

Hooks - My Crit Strength and Pet Peeve

Chapter ending hooks are exactly what they sound like. Some of you
can relate to the analogy of fishing. You bait, toss the line in the
water, and hope the hook catches you a fish.

Not into fishing? Think of a movie scene, or some story you read that
you really enjoyed. You know the kind ... the one that leaves your
heart pounding, and you holding your breath.

Every chapter in your book is at least one scene in length, maybe
more. You arrange the setting, you place the story actors on the
stage, and you have them act. They go through what they need to, and
the tension builds. You can't wait to see or read what happens next.

And then, you find out.

Then chapter ends.

You look at the watch on your cell phone, or the clock in your
bedroom and yawn. Time for bed. You shove a bookmark into the
paperback, set it on the bed stand and go to sleep.


No. No! NO! You don't want your reader to breath easy at the end of
the chapter (or a scene for that matter). You don't want to put their
mind at rest.

What do you want? You want to agitate them with the question that
keeps them reading on into the next chapter. You want them to
ask, "What happened next?" What did s/he decide? How are they going
to get out of THAT situation?

How do you do it?

Simple. Write the scene, complete with the logical consequences of
the tension of that section of your work. Then reread what you've
written with an eye to the tension you've built. Take it to the
pinnacle, where there is no way at that particular time you can make
things any worse, and then, end the chapter.

Here is a sample from my novel, 15 DEGREES OF HEAT:

Diego pointed the gun in Rob’s face as he attempted to stand. “To the
desk, Doctor.”

Cold steel slapped onto his right wrist when Diego handcuffed him to
the crossbar between the front and rear desk legs. Rob rattled the
chains, tried to loosen them. Diego laughed and left him in the
thickening smoke.

A scream followed. Cali’s. Muffled thumps, another crash, and then
Rob glimpsed Diego with Cali slumped over his shoulder. The villain
stopped in the doorway. With a leisurely look, he took in the
conflagration that would soon consume the entire clinic. He tsked
with mock sadness. “Such a shame you have to die, Doctor, but the
clinic, I will make sure it is rebuilt, someday. Buenos dias, SeƱor.”
Diego grinned and closed the door.

This scene personified "out of the frying pan into the fire."

The reader doesn't know what happens to Dr. Rob. He's trapped,
handcuffed to the desk, the fire roaring around him.

Of course, I, as the author, know precisely what is going to happen
next. Rob is going to escape, but my reader doesn't know how. They
must read on to find the answer.

That is what a hook is supposed to do. Use them. You'll have readers
up to all hours of the night racing to the end of your novel.

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