By Jennifer Hudson Taylor
In fiction, a hook is an opening line or paragraph to a story that grips a reader’s interest and lures them into turning the pages to keep reading. Most authors think of a hook as the beginning of a story, but there are several other places to use a hook besides the beginning. I call this building hooks in the story.As authors we tend to concentrate so much on the opening hook, that we forget about building and incorporating page hooks, scene hooks, and chapter hooks into our stories.
How many times have your read a book that started out with a great hook, but several pages or chapters later, you lost interest? That’s because somewhere along the way, the author forgot to build in hooks that kept building the plot and it fell flat.
Each paragraph builds into the next paragraph. As one character says something, don’t you want to know what the next character’s response will be? If it’s punchy, intense, and emotional enough, I would think that you would. Each paragraph can lead into a hook and build suspense by having someone or something interrupt the response. Who says a character must respond right away? The interruption may build additional suspense. Now it’s time to turn the page. End the page on a hook. Force your readers to turn that page.
In my short historicals my chapter lengths are generally 9-12 pages. In longer books, my chapters are 12-15 pages. This means I may have 2-3 scenes in a short chapter and 3-4 scenes in a longer chapter. For each scene I concentrate on building the scene to end on a hook. I look for a pivotal statement or action that will leave the reader wondering about something. A question must hang in the balance between scene breaks.
I may continue the same scene, but switch point of views between characters, and simply insert a scene break. How is the other person going to react? What is he/she thinking regarding the other person’s statements? Who has the most at stake at this point? Keep in mind how this scene can end on another hook. What can this person say or do that will be detrimental to the whole scene leaving it with unanswered questions.
Build each scene to end the last scene of the chapter on another hook that is even bigger than the last few scenes in the chapter. Never resolve a situation without first introducing another situation that will leave the reader questioning what will happen next. If you finally resolve a conflict or question, introduce another person, event, act, or behavior that will instill more questions or strengthen the plot with more obstacles to the characters’ goals.
The key is to never allow your characters to resolve their problems until you are winding down to the end of the book—the last couple of chapters. Otherwise, end on a hook!
Monday, July 28, 2008
By Jennifer Hudson Taylor