Monday, 10 January 2011

H is for Hooks

How does a reader get hooked into a story? Your story?

I know I like to feed snippets of information that sets up the character or the scene, or gives a subtle clue as to what’s going on in the story that is about to unfold. Naturally, I don’t want to give away the game plan too soon unless that’s relevant to the action and will move on at pace.

So what makes me, a reader, read on.
Firstly, the book jacket must convey a situation or a possible scenario that appeals to me. And then if I can’t get I into the first page with ease I am afraid that the selected book is often returned to the shelf, never making into out of the store with me. So what’s my story about? Several times I have tried to write my blurb for my jacket cover but I’m not happy with it yet.

It’s interesting but when I started writing my book what I thought would be my first chapter didn’t turn out that way. The first chapter arrived once I have got writing under way. I had my light bulb moment and my thought process went like this… so if I start here, then this will feed into that and that will lead to… and so on. It has dawned on me (as I write this) that both of my books start in the kitchen… family scenes that are quite ordinary, initially but take a sudden and different direction! So if family life and kitchens are you’re thing I’ve just lost a swathe of potential readers.

Then just as my kitchen sink scenario is about to spill the beans, deliver the reward to my reader for reading thus far, I take a turn to the left and something very ordinary happens! I delay the telling just like real life and the delivery has to be earned by reading more. Just a little teezy weezy, before I resume the action. Of course if I want to string the reader a long a bit further then I can add another twist or turn. Enough to get them hooked.

There will always be someone offering advice on how to or where to start but I firmly believe that unless you make a start you will never know where the beginning is going to end up! Unless you're absolutely clear about your entire story at the outset. Recently I was talking to a friend who told me he wanted to write but he was stuck at the opening sentence because he believed what he’d heard - that the importance of a good opening sentence was imperative.

I smiled, and then I explained that if I waited for my first sentence I wouldn’t make a start on any story! I would never write anything. He laughed. I tried to reinforce that it’s ideas that are important and once the nub of a story is down on paper I believe that bashing it into shape is possible. I went on to explain that where I thought a story might have originally started is not necessarily where it will actually start and that made him laugh too.

What works for some does not necessarily work for others, because one size doesn’t fit all. And that’s so true when it comes to writing.

I have learned to jump right in and write my stories. When my work has been critiqued/edited I have had advice offered that often makes sense but it is after all only one persons view. However, if collectively they agree then there might be a modicum of truth in what’s being said. There is a small group of people I trust and they have said I am good at ratcheting up tension. So I’ll stick with this view for now until an editor or publisher finds my work.

Happy writing. And keep writing, compelling your readers to read more.

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