Sunday, May 4, 2008

My husband didn't know he married a hooker!

Ok, I know what you're thinking and you're wrong. Sorry, I just practiced a little "catch and release" on you.

I'm talking about making sure my writing has hooks, those little barbs of tantalizing information that keep a reader turning the pages. Last night, my dear husband was reading my current WIP (VEXING THE VISCOUNT) --yes, I am the luckiest writer on the planet to have him. He's my faithful first reader--and he kept saying he was going to stop as soon as he hit a chapter break. But the end of the chapter came and I "hooked" him into reading on. He finally had to stop mid-chapter at a Point-Of-View switch.

So what exactly is a hook? It's a sliver of promise of what's to come. A twist that sends the readers' thoughts in an entirely new direction. It's a surprise, an element so out of place and yet so inevitable, it makes the reader plough forward even though it's long past midnight and they have to rise at 6 AM.

For examples of prime hooking masters, read Dan Brown or Mary Higgins Clark. They propel their readers along, setting hooks with almost every sentence. There's a smooth pathway in their prose and if there's any sign of slowing, they throw in a twist that sends the reader careening forward.

Sometimes it's the initial sentence that so smacks the reader with questions, they have to read to figure out what in the world is going on. Nora Robert's opener for Carolina Moon is one of these. When I read 'She woke in the body of a dead friend.' I knew this was not your average story. Have you read any good hooks lately? I'd love to hear what caught your eye.

My hooking skills are still in the refining stage, but I'm working on it. So be forewarned. My goal is to keep you up some night.

www.emilybryan.com

6 comments:

Barbara Vey said...

Ok, you got me again. I totally read this because of the title. I am so easy.

As for first lines, here's what I said in my blog about Distracting the Duchess:

"This book had me hooked from the first sentence, 'I'm going to have to shorten his willie.' I dare anyone to try to not read on after seeing those words."

You, my dear, have mastered the hook.

Colleen Thompson said...

Hah! Love that first line, Emily! You hooked me, too.

Glad you shared it, Barbara!

EmilyBryan said...

Aw, shucks! T'weren't nuthing.

Actually, it's made me work a lot more on my first lines. It's hard to top "willie shortening."

For PLEASURING THE PIRATE its:

"The next time I decide to kill a man, I'm going to have to find better help."

My current work in progress, VEXING THE VISCOUNT begins with:

"Hmmm. I wonder if that's life sized."

Anonymous said...

My first line in To the Edge of the Stars is, "Ward, he'll die if we don't so something!"

In large part, I think hooks depend on the story to be told. Right now I'm reading Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold. It took two lines to hook me. But hook me she did. 'My name was Salmon, like the fish; first name, Susie. I was fourteen when I was murdered on December 6, 1973.'

Nora, aka J.D. Robb, deals in murder and death. And you know it from the first sentence.
Interlude in Death. 'The faces of murder were varied and complex.'
Murder in Death. 'Murder respects no traditions.'
Haunted in Death. "Winters could be murderous.'
And one of my favorites, Strangers in Death. 'Murder harbored no bigotry, no bias.'
There's no question what you're going to be reading in her work.

I think hooks aught to serve several purposes; impart a sense of what the story is about, and your voice in the telling.

Cheers,
Joyce Henderson

Katie(babs) said...

Well that pirate is quite the looker ;D

EmilyBryan said...

Indeed he is. When I decided to write a pirate story, people asked me if Johnny Depp was my inspiration. Sadly, no. While the talented Mr. Depp is intensely watchable, his Jack Sparrow nanced about entirely too much for me.

My Gabriel Drake is all man!