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?