Tag Archives: hooks

Book Hooks with M.L. Forman

One of our favorite guests and long-time friend of Writing Snippets, author Mark “M.L.” Forman joined us for another interview, Yeah! In this one he talks about hooks in books and how to bait our reader to draw them in and keep them reading. Listen to find out what a hook is, how to write one, where to place them, what makes a good/bad hook, and different kids of hooks. And comment on his interview for a chance to win one or more of his Adventurers Wanted books or audio books. Share your own hook idea and we’ll enter your name in our drawing twice!

Download here (right click and select “save link as” to download”)

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?

By Hook or by Crook

My daughter is in middle school.

I’m sure we all remember the books we were asked to read in school. I remember “The Lord of the Flies,” “The Scarlett Letter,” and “The Diary of Anne Frank.” Oh, and the plays. The Crucible. Romeo and Juliet. And the short stories: Ray Bradbury’s “The Martian Chronicles,” and let’s not forget “The Lottery.”

I specifically remember “The Lottery.” In my humble opinion, we have a twenty-first century equivalent of that story: “The Hunger Game.s” Yup. The whole premise is that some innocent person has to kill or be killed in order to feed his–or her–family. Someone must lose their life to sadistic, unreasonable, societal expectations, either to entertain the idle in their bloodlust, or to maintain savage “tradition.” I thought we were past this as a society. Personally, I think the whole idea is degrading and animalistic, but what do I know? I didn’t want my children to read the book because I have this funny, old fashioned idea that children need to be protected from depravity and savagery, but guess which book my girl was assigned in her literature class?

Fine. I told her she didn’t have to read it if she didn’t want to, but she said she would give it a try. When I asked her what she thought, this is what she said: “I hate the story idea, the premise of child gladiators killing each other to feed their families, but—” her words not mine: “The writing was so incredibly great that I was pulled in from the first lines.”


My curiosity piqued, I mentioned this to my friend Lauren, a fellow Snippeter and a writer-who-sees-clearly. She sat down and analyzed the first page of that novel. What was it that pulled the reader in and didn’t let them go?
Hooks. Lots and lots of carefully placed, well hidden little two-or-three syllable temptations that have you miles deep in the story before you know you’re through the first page. This is what Lauren said:

“In the first paragraph, author Suzanne Collins introduces the main character, the family situation, and a hint of poverty. She ends with a hook. She mentions “the reaping,” an ominous phrase that brings to the subconscious mind visions of a dark hooded specter carrying a scythe. The second paragraph also ends with a hook. And the fourth paragraph refers back to the hook in the first paragraph, and the menacing hope of “the reaping.”

By the end of the first page (or in reality, page and a half) she’s introduced the setting, the main character, the society, and leaves with another hook, pulling you through to the next page. What is the reaping? Hope for better, the word suggests, since it’s a cause for gift giving. So far it’s the only thing mentioned more than once.

It doesn’t start into the action immediately, as some people seem to think is necessary. It sets up the situation in careful detail and leaves us wanting more by the use of carefully spaced hooks. This story has been painstakingly crafted, the hooks placed with caution and deliberation, to keep the reader reading.

It is also written in present tense, which makes the action (or rather lack of it) more immediate. But that’s another story.”

Now I have my next focus of study. But I’ll figure out how to use hooks to draw my readers in with anticipation, with joy. Not with dread. I think the literary community from Euripides to dystopia is saturated with dread. And I’ve had enough of dread.

By Ava Mylne