By Hook or by Crook part 2

I’ve got a thing for hooks right now. I pulled a bunch of books off a shelf at random and looked for hooks in the first page, filling in the “who-what-when-where-why-how” and paying close attention to when my focus wandered or was piqued. This is what I found:

In “Pebble in the Sky” by Isaac Asimov, the hook is the implied disappearance. He uses the phrases, “two minutes before he disappeared”, and “the face of the world he knew”. The why and how are left as questions, or hooks, in the reader’s mind.

Nina Kiriki Hoffman’s “A Fistful of Sky” used a hook that surprised me. The word “We” is used repeatedly, giving a sense of unity against outsiders, against ominous forces: “the force we supported each other against was right in the house with us”, implying a currently unseen—and imminent– threat. “I” is not used until the last paragraph of the first page.

Mary Higgins Clark’s “Pretend You Don’t See Her” and Anne McCaffery’s “Renegades of Pern” had no strong hooks, no risk, no questions raised without an immediate answer. These two authors being the names they are, I wondered if they were relying on their already substantial readership to sell the books. A simple evidence of this was the fact that I also looked at Anne McCaffery’s “Dragonflight”, (one of my personal favorites). This is one of McCaffery’s first published books, and the hooks were obvious: “Lessa woke cold.” This is a cryptic question that lends to the atmosphere of discomfort and fear, foreshadowing the recurrence of a familiar terror. The cold of the early morning is only the beginning.

All in all, these are some of the hooks I found:

*Mood: recognition of danger, sense of fear or threat, mystery and unanswered questions. In every case, the “why” and “how” went unanswered.

*Implied danger to the family or society.

*Implied social difference: “Special child destined for greatness”; a misfit or underdog in society.

*Humor or personality in the authorial voice or the characters.

*Repetition of an emotionally evocative idea, as in “the reaping” in “Hunger Games”, and the “We” in “A Fistful of Sky”.

What are some of the hook techniques you like to use? Or ones that stand out to you when you read?

By Ava Mylne

In two weeks Lauren will be posting a blog on why we read what we read, and asking for your input in a poll. Here are some of the questions ahead of her article. Be ready to tell us what you think!

1. Would you buy more books if you didn’t have to worry about your children / siblings / nieces and nephews finding them on your book-case?

2. Do you buy e-books because you can lock (or hide) your e-reader?

About Writing Snippets

Information for the beginning or aspiring writer about all things writing in the fiction world. Novels, publishing, etc. We feature author and other professional interviews. View all posts by Writing Snippets

6 responses to “By Hook or by Crook part 2

  • Cara

    I think some of the best hooks are the ones that leave you with questions. I move through a book so much faster when I have questions pulling me forward.

    • Ava Mylne

      Me too. I started going through my various W.I.P.’s and putting in hooks where my attention wandered. Reader participation and empathy is so elementary, but I had to do this research to catch on. Go figure. 😛 Thanks for commenting, Cara. We’re glad you’re out there.

      • Alice

        I agree that questions can keep you reading. If there are to many though I get impatient. I think I tend to explain things too much in my novels. I guess it’s a matter of finding that fine balance.

  • M.L. Forman

    The best hooks are the ones the reader doesn’t notice until it’s too late. Ha, you swallowed the hook and didn’t see it coming, now you must keep reading. Then you can add more hooks to make sure your reader doesn’t escape.
    Picture Darth Vader as a writer… “I have you now young reader…” O.K. maybe too much.

  • Nichole

    I’m excited too, Mark. I didn’t get a chance to meet you last time but everyone raved how great you are. Love this discussion on hooks. IMO, careful attention must be paid to drawing the reader in without making the lure feel gimicky. There’s nothing worse than a writing lie– discovering you’ve been tricked into reading something you otherwise would have put down had you known the truth. We need to be careful not to implant a hook simply to lure. It has to be RELEVANT.

    I like to be lured, mind you, just not under false pretenses. 🙂

    Happy truthful hooking.


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