How to Be a Better Hooker (in Writing!) — Guest: Mary Buckham

by Jami Gold on March 31, 2015

in Writing Stuff

Fishing hook with text: Improve Our Writing with Hooks

We have the perfect attention-getting cover, and readers are clicking to read more. We have a great back-cover blurb, and readers are buying our story. We’re good to go, right?

Not quite. We want readers who start our story not be able to put it down. We want them to get to the end of our book and love our storytelling so much that they can’t wait to buy the next one.

In short…

  • Our intriguing cover turns a browser into a shopper.
  • Our interesting blurb turns a shopper into a reader.
  • Our compelling writing turns a reader into a fan.

One of the ways we create compelling writing is by creating a need within our readers. Our readers need to keep turning pages to learn more, to answer their questions, to reach the happy ending, to figure out “who did it,” etc.

So a common piece of advice is to create hooks—phrases, sentences, ideas, questions, etc.—to fuel that need within readers. Today, I’m excited to welcome Mary Buckham to the blog to discuss hooks.

We benefited from Mary’s advice last year on using point of view for settings and on how to anchor settings, and now she has a new two-book series on hooks. With two books’ worth of material, it’s hard to narrow down the highlights, but Mary’s here to touch on the 9 types of hooks and to answer frequent questions about using hooks.

Also, check out the details below for a giveaway of one of her new books! Please welcome Mary Buckham! Yay! *smile*

*****

Wanted:
Writers Who Are Willing to Become Hookers!

Can you answer the following questions?

  1. Do you know how many hooks you need to get a reader to turn the page?
  2. Do you know what the most common types of hooks are for the type of book you are writing?
  3. Do you know where hooks must be on the page to convince a reader to buy your book?
  4. Do you know how many hooks are included in the following sentence?
    “Kill that baby!” — Sherrilyn Kenyon — Acheron

Introduction to Hooks

If you stumbled or have no idea how to answer any of these questions, trust me, you’re not alone. All writers are told about hooks—hook your critique partners, hook an editor or agent, hook the reader—but we’re not really taught exactly how to do that.

I know when I started writing, I thought I was hooking readers, at least that was my intention, but when I heard from an early rejection letter that the editor found it easy enough to set the manuscript down, I knew I was missing the mark. So I started hunting for exactly what hooks were and how to use them better.

What I found is that there were how-to books using the word Hooks in the title—and all had something to offer—but what I wanted was a clear guideline to the use of hooks throughout a novel, where and how to use them most effectively, and why there were books I could set down easily vs. the books that kept me up long after I wanted to go to bed.

Not Sure How to Best Use Hooks? You’re Not Alone

Working with other writers in all genres, I realized I was not alone in my quest to understand the power and placement of hooks beyond the first page. Why were some hooks used in certain novels but rarely in other novels? Why could an author writing something considered slower paced still compel me to keep reading and in another genre, one I loved, did I find a story lagging?

Here’s some of what I discovered:

  • Hooks are very subjective, which means some will resonate with some readers but not every reader all the time.
  • Even with this subjectivity, there tend to be a total of nine universal hooks that work regardless of what we write.
  • The intention of most hooks is to compel a reader to read deeper into the page, turn the page, or start the next scene or chapter.
  • Hooks can be taught and learned, though they do require practice.

I discovered that hooks are meant to raise questions for a reader. The type of questions that intrigue us enough to keep reading until our curiosity is assuaged. At that point, the smart writer has threaded in additional hooks without the reader being aware that they are intentionally being guided through a book.

This was eye-opening to me, and my quest to make more writers strong hookers gelled.

Meet the Nine Universal Hooks

First step was to narrow down the nine universal hooks. Here they are:

  1. Action:
    The type of action associated with danger and that when experienced, makes you pause and pay attention.
  2. Overpowering Emotion:
    Not the kind of emotion every page should contain, but the kind that grabs your curiosity to find out why and what happened or is happening.
  3. A Surprising Situation:
    Which means you didn’t expect that event or action or dialogue or decision to happen on the page, whether it’s the first sentence in a novel or the last in the book.
  4. The Totally Unexpected:
    This hook ramps up the Surprising Situation into something more, larger, grab-you-harder type of response in a reader. It’s the difference between knowing your sister-in-law is having an affair and discovering that she’s having that affair with your husband.
  5. Question(s) Raised:
    This is the easiest and most universal of hooks and, once you start noticing and understanding the use of hooks, is so easy to create it’s hard not to create some type of question either stated implicitly or implied. “Are you going to kill your husband?” is an explicit question raised. Hearing he was having an affair with your sister-in-law creates an implied question.
  6. Unique Character:
    Yes, all our protagonists are unique, and if the reader would only keep reading, they’d discover what we, as the author, know. But the reader won’t keep reading if you don’t continue to give them reasons, if you don’t continue to hook them until they reach the realization that you have indeed written a very unique character.
  7. Evocative Hook:
    The single most difficult hook for the average writer to identify.
  8. Foreshadowing or Warning:
    That sense that the sentence or paragraph you just read stands to cause complications, challenges and possible conflict deeper into the story, and is intriguing enough that you have to keep reading to find out what happens as a result.
  9. Surprising or Shocking Dialogue:
    This often is in tandem with the Surprising hook and the Question(s) Raised hook or in contrast to what the reader expects to hear.

Common Questions and Answers about Hooks

So now that you know the most universal and commonly used hooks, are you an official hooker?

You’re closer to that goal. But there’s more, a lot more.

Since it required two e-books for me to go into enough detail about all the ins and outs of hooks, what I’ll be able to share here is limited. But even the bare bones can be helpful in letting you know if you struggle with hooks or are one of those rare writers who know how to craft them naturally, without thinking twice.

For the rest of us mere mortals, here are a few of the most common questions asked about hooks that can help you become a stronger hooker:

Q: Can your sentence have more than one hook?

A: Yes, most opening sentences, in particular, do.

Q: How do I know how many hooks are appropriate in the key places you mention for what I’m writing?

A: By studying other novels in your genre. Especially the more recent debut authors, as the number and types of hooks used ten or twenty years ago can change.

Q: What if my novel crosses many genres? How do I focus on what hooks work best?

A: Determine what is the main focus of your story. Is it the mystery or the romance or the western element, etc.? Think in terms of the reader who wants to read what you’re writing and what attracts them most and then study and use hooks for those readers.

Q: How do I learn more about hooks?

A: Read books, especially those that have kept you up late at night reading when you wanted to go to sleep. Read them once for enjoyment then re-read to examine the key placement of hooks on the page to see what types of hooks were used and how many at these key points. The more you see hooks in action, the easier it is for you to see in your own work which hooks to apply and where.

Q: I don’t like all the kinds of hooks. Is that a problem for me as a writer?

A: No. Once you discover the types of hooks your readers respond to based on what you’re seeing in the genre you’re writing, you can focus on them. There is a problem if you love one or two kinds of hooks only, such as the evocative hook, but are trying to write to a genre that tends not to love the evocative hook as much as you might. Once you start writing for publication, you must think about your reader as well as your own preferences.

Answers to the Questions at the Opening of This Post:

1. Do you know how many hooks you need to get a reader to turn the page?

A: Depends on where in the book you are inserting the hooks and the what you are writing. As many as the type of your story requires, but no more. The number for a woman’s fiction novel will not be the same for a thriller. A romantic suspense will require more than a romantic comedy.

2. Do you know what the most common types of hooks are for the type of book you are writing?

A: Study your genre and you’ll learn this answer.

3. Do you know where hooks must be on the page in order to convince a reader to buy your book?

A: On the 1st page: the first sentence, end of the first paragraph, and end of the page at minimum. Beginning and ends of every scene and chapter, the number depends on where the scene and chapter is in your overall novel.

4. Do you know how many hooks are included in the following sentence?
“Kill that baby!” — Sherrilyn Kenyon — Acheron

A: 8.

Writing is not for wimps. If hooks do not come easily for you, don’t despair, as it is a craft element that can be learned.

Make it your goal to be a great hooker.

*****

Mary BuckhamUSA Today bestselling author Mary Buckham writes the Amazon best selling WRITING ACTIVE series for writers – WRITING ACTIVE SETTING and WRITING ACTIVE HOOKS.

She doesn’t just teach writers though, she practices what she preaches, writing Urban Fantasy with attitude. Love romance, danger & kick-ass heroines?

Find it in her Alex Noziak or Kelly McAllister series: www.MaryBuckham.com

Writing Active Hooks Book 1About WRITING ACTIVE HOOKS BOOK 1:

Do you know what hooks can do for your novel?

  • Learn to identify the first five most common types of hooks.
  • Understand how to craft hooks in a consistent way and why most readers will respond to hooks.
  • Grasp the intention of hooks.
  • Step by step, watch sentences change from no hooks to containing multiple hooks.

Put hooks to work in your own stories with the tips and insights you’ll learn here.

Writing Active Hooks Book 2About WRITING ACTIVE HOOKS BOOK 2:

Want to engage a reader from the first page of your novel and keep them engaged?

  • Move deeper into the craft of writing hooks.
  • Discover the most common pitfalls when writing hooks.
  • Learn to identify the four remaining hooks and how they can challenge a writer.
  • Find out where hooks must be used to create a page-turning manuscript.

Examine how authors in all genres incorporate hooks into their work and how you can duplicate the process in your own manuscripts.

*****

Thank you, Mary! I had no idea there were so many kinds of hooks. *smile*

I’ve heard some people complain about hooks being too formulaic—like every chapter ending on a dun dun dun—but I think that’s more of an issue if we’re too limited in the styles of hooks we use. If we’re always ending a chapter with a dun-dun-dun dialogue line, our writing will feel predictable. So it’s great to learn about the different types of hooks so we can mix-and-match and avoid turning our writing into a cliché.

As with most writing techniques, we might not consciously include hooks while we draft. Or we might write without chapter breaks and decide where to place those breaks based on where those hooks already fall in the story. But when we’re revising and editing our work, we want to think about how we can make our hooks stronger and more compelling.

With the right knowledge, we’ll be able to make our writing compelling enough for readers to turn pages. And when they get to the end of that book, hopefully they’ll be eager for our next story. *smile*

Mary’s also doing a giveaway! She’s giving away two ebooks from her WRITING ACTIVE collection, just leave a comment before April 5th to enter. Yay!

Do you naturally include hooks when you draft, or do have to add those at a later stage? Did you know that there were so many different kinds of hooks? Do you have a favorite way of using hooks? Or is there a hooks technique you have to ensure you don’t overuse? Do you have any questions for Mary about using hooks in our writing?

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84 Comments below - Time to Add your own.

deb March 31, 2015 at 6:21 am

I’m looking at the doorway to rewrite Hell. I’m in . Please

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Mary Buckham March 31, 2015 at 10:04 am

LOL! Deb ~ I so know that feeling. Great thing about understanding what are the most universal and powerful hooks and where they MUST be on the page – you have a tool to double check specific issues that can really enhance your writing. It’s the difference between looking for that needle in the haystack and finding out the needle is right here, and here and here. Thanks for stopping by today and sending you great revision magic your way!

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Jami Gold April 1, 2015 at 5:26 pm

Hi Deb,

Ha! Mary here filled in for me while I was finishing up a revision from hell, so I understand. 🙂 Good luck with yours, and thanks for stopping by!

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Mary Buckham March 31, 2015 at 10:05 am

Thank you Jami for having me as your guest today! Always fun to stop by and chat with your readers. I love sharing insights that can help other writers and really appreciate the opportunity to do that here!

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Jami Gold April 1, 2015 at 5:27 pm

Thank YOU, Mary!

As always, this was a great post from you. You’re welcome back anytime. 🙂

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Laurie Adams March 31, 2015 at 10:22 am

I’ve read each of Mary’s craft books, and the thing I really like is the way she develops here examples so we can see the progression from an okay sentence or paragraph to one that grabs the readers. I’m much more cognizant of where and how I use them. I love this list that was shared above, because now that I’ve read the books, they all make sense and these abbreviated descriptions will be perfect to hang in front of my computer so I can be purposeful in how I craft my sentence or paragraph.

Thanks for having Mary on here, Jami.

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Mary Buckham March 31, 2015 at 10:37 am

Ahhhh, thank you Laurie. You’ve actually given me a great idea as a giveaway for my next newsletter. I won’t share what because not knowing is what hooked you (Foreshadowing, Question(s) Raised, possibly a Surprising Dialogue) Okay, I’ll behave myself. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by and sharing. Knowing what an amazing YA and MG writer you are (Finding Atticus, Over the Edge) and hearing that you’re still looking for opportunities for improvement shows all writers a great role model! Thank you!

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Jami Gold April 1, 2015 at 5:29 pm

Hi Laurie,

Great idea! Yes, once we understand an issue, it’s so much easier to see other ways of applying the knowledge. 🙂 Thanks for the comment!

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Jacquie Biggar March 31, 2015 at 10:40 am

Hi Mary & Jami,
Great post. I’m pretty good with end of chapter hooks, but the first line gets me every time 🙁
I need these books, lol

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Mary Buckham March 31, 2015 at 11:44 am

Jacquie ~ you’re not alone. Good news is if you’re already using end of chapter hooks you know how to hook. Transfer that knowledge to beginning of chapters, which is what an opening line is. Determine how many hooks you want/need in your opening based on what you’re writing, what kinds of hooks might work best for what you’re writing and then have fun playing with your current sentence. Ask yourself – how can I Foreshadow more or turn this into Surprising Dialogue better? Look at the hooks, determine which ones you want to use and 1 hook at a time create an opening sentence that sings. I know you can do it!

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Jami Gold April 1, 2015 at 5:31 pm

Hi Jacquie,

I’m with you. I can get those scene/chapter ending hooks in there every time, but I don’t know enough about how to create hooks in other places. 🙁 I need these books too. LOL! Thanks for sharing!

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Tamar Hela March 31, 2015 at 11:44 am

Awesome post! Just what I needed to read as I finish my third and fourth books! Something that helped me when rewriting my first book was Les Edgerton’s “Hooked.” That book opened my eyes to the technique of hooking my readers and I’m so glad I took the time to study it. Hoping I’ll win Mary’s books so I can read those too! 🙂

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Mary Buckham March 31, 2015 at 12:53 pm

Congratulations Tamar on finishing those books! High five you! Edgerton writes a great book and thanks for sharing it. We approach the subject of hooks, and how to build them, differently though so here’s hoping you win a copy of my book to find out for yourself! Thanks for stopping by and again ~ gold stars on writing your latest books !

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Jami Gold April 1, 2015 at 5:33 pm

Hi Tamar,

Yes, I’ve gone through the “Hooked” book as well, and while it made sense to me for the beginning of stories, I don’t think it covers all the during-the-story hooks that Mary encourages. 🙂 Thanks for reminding me of that book!

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Nick March 31, 2015 at 11:52 am

What a great list! And the whole article is quite a hook!…

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Mary Buckham March 31, 2015 at 12:54 pm

LOL! Thanks Nick! Once you start studying hooks it’s hard to not hook, which means that no matter how challenging creating hooks can be initially, they can be learned until they become second nature. I appreciate your visiting today and posting!

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Jami Gold April 1, 2015 at 5:34 pm

Hi Nick,

LOL! Isn’t it though?

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Anne R. Allen March 31, 2015 at 12:04 pm

Great advice, Mary. Will share! So many new authors don’t get the whole “hook” concept. I think this will help. Thanks!

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Mary Buckham March 31, 2015 at 12:58 pm

Spot on Anne! I think part of the challenge is we use the word “hooks” in so many ways that it’s easy to think we’ve hooked a reader because we have a strong plot or exciting premise. And we do. But that’s different than constantly finding ways to re-engage the reader throughout a novel. It’s the difference between having someone friend you on Facebook and starting and continuing a dialogue until you’ve moved beyond total strangers to connected. Thanks for visiting today and for sharing!

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Jami Gold April 1, 2015 at 5:35 pm

Hi Anne,

Yes, there’s so much more we can do to keep readers engaged. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by!

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Tiger March 31, 2015 at 12:11 pm

What’s the best opening hook you’ve ever read, in any genre. No pressure there, right?

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Mary Buckham March 31, 2015 at 1:02 pm

LOL! Oh, that’s a hard one. That’s like trying to narrow down a favorite book 🙂 Plus the type of opening hook that rocks a literary novel or cozy mystery can be so radically different, but no less compelling, than one opening a thriller or young adult novel. I think though, the ones that make me smile are the ones I see newer, and even some more experienced writers make to their own work when they take a blah opening line and work it until it pops! Those are eye-opening and high-five opening lines!

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Jami Gold April 1, 2015 at 5:36 pm

Hi Tiger,

Ooo, good question. Opening hooks aren’t a strength of mine, so I need to see what ones Mary includes as examples in these books. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by!

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Ava Louise March 31, 2015 at 12:14 pm

Thanks for such an insightful and necessary article. I’ve bought the first e-book, and am looking forward the second. Jami, you always deliver great posts!

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Mary Buckham March 31, 2015 at 1:05 pm

Thank you Ava! For your kind words and your purchase. Hope you enjoy reading the books as much as I enjoyed writing them (the research – reading lots and lots across every genre I could find – to narrow down the strongest hooks, was a blast, too)! Jami is amazing, isn’t she – reading through her blogs is like a MFA journey to becoming and being a published author!

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Jami Gold April 1, 2015 at 5:37 pm

Hi Ava,

Aww, thanks! And when I have guest posters, they make it easy. LOL! Thanks for the comment!

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Janet Bailey March 31, 2015 at 12:22 pm

I’m always looking to improve my writing. These books would be great additions.

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Mary Buckham March 31, 2015 at 1:08 pm

Thank you Janet! I try to keep the books focused and affordable to get them into the hands of writers who want to make a difference in their work NOW! In an ideal world I’d be able to work with as many writers one-on-one, but this is as close as I can get anymore while writing my own fiction and more non-fiction craft books. I appreciate your visiting the blog today!

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Jami Gold April 1, 2015 at 5:38 pm

Hi Janet,

Yep, love that attitude. No matter how skilled we are, we can always improve. 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

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Liette Bougie March 31, 2015 at 12:31 pm

I’m among the Lucky people who got to betaread “Writing Active Hooks: Book 2” and I’m happy to say I’ve learned a lot of things I wasn’t aware of. Now, I have to gather my courage and go through my writings and see how I can improve those stories by applying what I’ve learned – no small task since I’m attempting to translate in English and then rewrite an historical novel I started to write in French back in 1978. 🙂

Seriously, I’m looking forward to read all of Mary’s craft books – as well as her novels. She “hooked” me when I first started betareading “Invisible Journey” for her not long ago.

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Mary Buckham March 31, 2015 at 1:14 pm

Love having your swing by today Liette and I’m impressed. Writing in one language can be challenging enough so moving between languages is enough to have me dropping my jaw! I also appreciate your feedback on my fiction. I believe strongly in teaching what I do and not just what I say. Teaching the craft of writing is brought home to me every day that I sit down to write fiction. Writing is not for wimps!

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Jami Gold April 1, 2015 at 5:39 pm

Hi Liette,

Wow! That’s great. 🙂 Good luck and thanks for stopping by!

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Laurel W. March 31, 2015 at 12:39 pm

Mary’s one of the best teachers I’ve ever met. Not only does she explain tough concepts well, she provides excellent feedback in her classes. I was so pleased to learn that she was taking her classes and turning them into books. Each is an invaluable tool that can save authors time and money. Personally, I want printed copies. I so love to make notes in the margins. I want the whole collection of Mary’s books!

🙂 Laurel Wilczek

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Mary Buckham March 31, 2015 at 1:17 pm

Thank you Laurel! Delighted to know that my intention for the craft books – to save other writers time and a steeper learning curve – is working for you while keeping the books affordable. That’s a win-win in my book (pun intended!). One day there will be a print copy of the Hooks books out. Probably not this year as I want to write the WRITING ACTIVE BODY LANGUAGE books next. So much to share. So little time 🙂

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Jami Gold April 1, 2015 at 5:40 pm

Hi Laurel,

LOL! I understand about wanting printed copies. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by!

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Mel A Rowe March 31, 2015 at 12:54 pm

I never realized how many types of hooks there are. I normally start with the action/question type of hook. It’s the question I ask myself that makes me write to discover the ending. I’m still learning and thankyou for the valuable information provided.

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Mary Buckham March 31, 2015 at 1:22 pm

Hi Mel and a great point. In fact one of the exercises for writers to do in the books (yes, there are homework assignments) is how to identify what your default go-to hook or hooks are. That’s a great starting point to determine how to expand your options. Something I see happen to newly published authors is that their debut book can be stellar, then, as they get crunched for time to put out the next book and the one after that, it’s easier for them to fall back on default hooks. Readers may not be able to pinpoint why 2nd and 3rd or 10th books are not as strong but once we lose a reader it’s almost impossible to coax them back. Understanding and writing hooks is a skill that pre-published and multi-published authors can use. Thanks for letting me make that point here!

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Jami Gold April 1, 2015 at 5:43 pm

Hi Mel,

Those are probably the two hooks I use the most as well. I think there’s a lot to learn about how to expand our repertoire. 🙂 Thanks for the comment!

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Ashley March 31, 2015 at 1:22 pm

I HATE it when a book keeps me up late, because I love my sleep! I know, I know, I’m just backwards in every possible way… and this was a great post (and I’m sure the books would be great as well) to start breaking down that resistance to hooks.

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Mary Buckham March 31, 2015 at 2:37 pm

LOL! Writers can be mean sometimes 🙂 As for resistance to hooks the number one issue that writers have told me is they hate getting hooked into a book because the writer had a great opening line or opening page and then the book fell flat. Learning to write strong hooks means that as a writer your book MUST fulfill the promise of engagement on your opening page. If you don’t want to or can’t do that then don’t worry about crafting hooks. Not meaning to sound callous but once we start writing for publication it’s no longer about what we want/needs but what the reader wants and needs. And if they want a book that keeps them engaged, all the way through, and we don’t provide it, then we quickly stop selling books. Every book does not have to create the same intensity as every other book but they should compel us to keep reading. That’s exactly what hooks can do. Hope this helps a little!

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Jami Gold April 1, 2015 at 5:44 pm

Hi Ashley,

LOL! I understand. Sometimes my schedule doesn’t let me read more than a bit at a time, and it’s so annoying to be laying in bed NOT being able to sleep because I’m wondering what’s going to happen next. 😉 Thanks for stopping by!

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Quinn Fforde March 31, 2015 at 2:37 pm

I had no idea there were so many. I will need to see how many I actually use. Thanks!

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Mary Buckham March 31, 2015 at 4:06 pm

Quinn ~ there are actually other types of hooks too – humor for example – but it is not an universal as the 9 mentioned above. Thanks for being open to looking at the possibilities and for swinging by today!

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Jami Gold April 1, 2015 at 5:45 pm

Hi Quinn,

I’m with you! I want to make sure I’m using the hold gamut. 🙂 Thanks for the comment!

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Paula Millhouse March 31, 2015 at 2:53 pm

First, thank you to Jami for hosting Mary here today. Great work, you two.
I’ve been studying Jami’s posts on story structure *grins* and this post on hooks adds such an important element. Mary, I think it’s intriguing that you’ve studied exactly where to place the hooks you’ve listed.
I agree, once you make that shift to writing for publication it becomes all about The Reader, and how to usher them to the points we want them to discover.
Thanks, Gals!

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Mary Buckham March 31, 2015 at 4:10 pm

Appreciate your visiting today Paula and for seeing how this aspect of writing craft builds so naturally on a strong story structure. Understanding where to place hooks is to think of the reader and where it’s easy for us to set a book down. An easy exercise to practice creating stronger hooks is to mark where you found it easy to step out of a story, and consider how you might have reworded, or threaded in stronger reasons to keep reading. It’s a fascinating task!

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Jami Gold April 1, 2015 at 5:46 pm

Hi Paula,

You’re welcome! I’m glad we can all learn together. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by!

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Serena Yung March 31, 2015 at 5:37 pm

Hi Mary and Jami,

Wow very practical post! I love practical posts. 😀

But what exactly is an evocative hook? And can you elaborate on what you mean by a unique character hook? (Does it literally mean that you show how interesting and unique this character is, and thus the reader wants to keep reading because they are intrigued by this character?)

If my guessed definition of a unique character hook is right, then Jami, Yang Mingshan my character who is writing a romantic comedy is totally using a unique character hook with the hero of his story Zhan Lanhua. Or at the very least I find Zhan Lanhua a super interesting and unique person, and this is one of the reasons why I want to keep reading Yang Mingshan’s story! (Mary, yes, in my story, there is actually a character who is also writing a story, lol. A story within a story.)

I love this list of nine hooks! (Not to mention that my favorite number is nine, haha, but that’s not important.) Hmm I’m a pantser, but I find I’m always making sure I put hooks at least at the end of each scene, though I didn’t do this for the beginning of each scene–that’s something on my to-do list during editing! The first page hooks I will need to make sure are there too when I come to edit the story.

Jami, I get what you mean by the formulaic dun dun dun dun, haha. Strangely enough, when I see it in books, I think it’s formulaic and cliched too, yet it still manages to hook me anyway for some reason! Haha. So lucky for those authors!

My favorite hooks to use are the question raised, foreshadowing/ warning (or dread), and when appropriate, overwhelming emotion. Sometimes I use the unique character, sometimes one of the surprise/ shocking hooks. My stories are mostly action-adventure, so there would be quite a lot of action anyway, so I didn’t realize they might be hooks too, but I can see why they could be attention grabbing.

Very interesting this point about hooks being subjective!

I like this idea very much that you can make a sentence have multiple hooks too.

Hmmm on the issue of cross genres: Well, my story is both romantic comedy and action-adventure (the specific subgenre is Chinese martial arts). It is mainly a romantic comedy, I guess, since what I personally enjoy most are the romance and comedy, and my target audience would be romantic comedy fans (who also love the martial arts genre). On the other hand, my romantic comedy lacks a lot of things commonly seen in our idea of a rom com…For instance, there are not many or barely any “third party intruder/ love triangle” plots, and very few and only very minor “misunderstanding plots”–and oh how I hate misunderstanding plots!

There is also a lot less serious action and a lot less adventure than one would expect in an action-adventure (even Chinese martial arts) story.

In fact, sometimes I worry that my story deviates from both genres too much, that readers will be disappointed for example because there’s much less adventure and serious action than they expect. :O But I’ll see how it goes.

Well…I’ll figure something out eventually for the hooks, haha. For the moment, I’ll just go with my gut feeling for what FEELS attention grabbing and what feels disengaging.

Oh this is just a theoretical question, but could a story have too many or too frequent hooks that the reader gets annoyed or feels manipulated? Lol I don’t think I’ve seen one like this before, but there are books where I am hooked, yet I can clearly see what the author is doing to get me hooked, and I might resent that because I indeed feel manipulated and am annoyed that it’s taking me away from other important things I need to do, lol; but regardless of my annoyance, I’m still hooked, haha.

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Mary Buckham April 1, 2015 at 10:33 am

Hi Serena! Lovely to have you swing by – sounds like you have a fascinating project you’re writing! As for your questions – Evocative hooks are the hardest to easily and quickly identify. The focus is on author’s voice, or word painting, or a unique approach to story telling. There’s more but that’s what the book is for 🙂 A Unique Character hook specifically refers to when and how a character is introduced. In the Girl with a Dragon Tattoo, the protoganist Lisette was a very unique character but she was never used as a hook in a specific location. Two different issues. So you can have a unique character that engages a reader in the story (which is a type of hook) but for the kinds of hooks I’m focusing on if her introduction is buried in the middle of a chapter or page – she does not necessarily compel the reader to turn the page when they might otherwise put a book down. And yes, a book can have too many hooks, but for the average reader what they notice is the story seems too fast-paced, too tense. Writers can feel manipulated because we read differently – we know why an author is using a sentence at a key place. But, as you pointed out, even knowing that we tend to keep on reading. That’s the point of using hooks – to compel a reader to keep reading. Whether they are happy about knowing we’re doing that or not depends on the reader, why they read, what they expect and a whole host of issues we don’t have control over (including whether they’re having a bad day or don’t like a particular kind of hook). Hope this helps!

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Jami Gold April 1, 2015 at 5:49 pm

Hi Serena,

Great questions! And I love the answers–how too many hooks will often feel too fast-paced. That makes total sense to me. 🙂 Thanks for bringing up those points!

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Pam March 31, 2015 at 8:16 pm

Wow! These books look great. I want to be a hooker. (Word I never thought I type.)

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Mary Buckham April 1, 2015 at 10:34 am

LOL! Pam – I’m with you. Who knew being a hooker could be so fun and make such a difference in a writer’s story? Thanks for sharing and for the smile!

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Jami Gold April 1, 2015 at 5:50 pm

Hi Pam,

LOL! Yep, Mary and I had too much fun with the headlines in this post. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by!

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Marie Dry April 1, 2015 at 2:18 am

Hi Mary

I think you know my question already and are sighing over there but when do we get the book in paper. I bought the electronic copy but my highlighters and sticky notes are ready and waiting to dive into the physical copy. I have the Active Settings book coming out with the publishers on pre-order and even though I have the first copy already I can’t wait for the new copy.
What I love about your books on craft and your classes is that it shows a writer practically how to approach the craft aspect of writing. And the examples of writing that work and that doesn’t helped tremendously.
Just reading this article I learned so much all over again. I need to go back and work through this book again.
Thanks for a great post.

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Mary Buckham April 1, 2015 at 7:40 pm

Ah Marie ~ how lovely to see you here. You’ve been so quite lately which I’m hoping means new books from you (always great to hear!). As for a print version – if I stop to make a print version now I won’t get the next 6 books I have on my schedule to have written this year. Print will come – maybe I’ll do it along with the Body Language one as rewards for writing. A present for both of us!! Thanks for swinging by and posting!

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Jami Gold April 2, 2015 at 12:33 am

Hi Marie,

LOL! I’m with you in preferring paper for craft books. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by!

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Julie Glover April 1, 2015 at 5:42 am

How fabulous! What great information. This has definitely piqued my interest for more of Mary’s insight on effective hooks.

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Mary Buckham April 1, 2015 at 10:36 am

Hi Julie! I love that phrasing – piqued your interest – because that’s exactly what good hooks do for the reader. I actually have an example of hooks in a memoir and a narrative non-fiction work to show that the power of hooks is not limited to fiction. Piquing interest is what hooks are all about. Thanks so much for the comment and taking the time to visit!

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Jami Gold April 1, 2015 at 5:57 pm

Hi Julie,

I’m thinking this info goes right along with your expertise on creating blurbs. 😉 Thanks for stopping by!

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Carradee April 1, 2015 at 6:24 am

Interesting post. I’ve grabbed a sample to check out your books further next time I’m browsing for some how-to guides. 🙂

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Mary Buckham April 1, 2015 at 10:38 am

Thank you Carradee! Here’s hoping if you find you need help with hooks you’ll now have a way to work on the issue to make your work stronger!

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Jami Gold April 1, 2015 at 5:58 pm

Hi Carradee,

I think–no, I know–I need more hours in a day to read all this great info. LOL! Thanks for stopping by!

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Glynis Jolly April 1, 2015 at 7:35 am

I certainly understand the need for hooks. Whether I can get enough of them into a novel is a whole other story though. I’m hoping my story is interesting enough, but until some beta readers read it, I won’t know. I’ve put this post into my files at Pearltrees so that I can refer to it at those times during the rewrite when I want to make sure to pump up what’s on the pages.

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Mary Buckham April 1, 2015 at 10:41 am

Smart move Glynis ~ looking at the use of hooks in your revision process. There are so many issues a writer is juggling simply to get a first draft completed – plot, characterization, motivation, etc., – that it can be overwhelming to think about something like hooks. They are needed though. A lot of the examples in the book I deconstruct, as if the authors write a very rough, first draft without hooks or very many, and then build to the final example to help show writers how to go from Blah! to Wow!. I appreciate your swinging by and sharing!

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Jami Gold April 1, 2015 at 6:00 pm

Hi Glynis,

Yes, there’s only so much we can (or should) concentrate on during drafting. 🙂 Thanks for the comment!

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Christina Hawthorne April 1, 2015 at 8:15 am

An informative and page-turning (if I could turn pages here) post. Thank you, Mary. When I clicked my way to Amazon I was delighted to also discover the books on active setting. Thanks again.

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Jami Gold April 1, 2015 at 6:04 pm

Hi Christina,

LOL! Glad you enjoyed the post. 🙂 Thanks for the comment!

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Mary Buckham April 1, 2015 at 10:45 am

Hi Christina! Thank you so much. Yes, I’ve written a series of short books on Writing Active Setting, another area where I saw writers struggling, and had the pleasure of Writer’s Digest come knocking on my door for them to publish a print version. That will be coming out later this year (the smaller e-version books I will still release while my current print book – with a green cover- will go away and an expanded Writer’s Digest will replace it). Coming up this year will also be books on Writing Active Body Language. Maybe I’ll twist Jami’s arm to see if she’d like me back as a guest blogger to share about that fascinating topic. Really appreciate your taking the time to visit and post. All the best with your writing!

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Addy Rae April 1, 2015 at 10:48 am

Perfect timing for this post! Camp NaNoWriMo, we meet again.

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Mary Buckham April 1, 2015 at 1:12 pm

Hi Addy! Glad the timing worked for you. Love it when the Universe brings us what we need when we need it. Now if it’d only bring some extra time to get everything done. Cheers!

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Jami Gold April 1, 2015 at 6:05 pm

Hi Addy,

Yay! Love it when things work out. 🙂 Good luck with Camp NaNo and thanks for stopping by!

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Laurie Evans April 2, 2015 at 1:04 pm

Printing this article. Thanks!

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Jami Gold April 2, 2015 at 1:05 pm

Hi Laurie,

Glad you liked it! 🙂

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Mary Buckham April 3, 2015 at 2:23 pm

Laurie ~ so glad you found it helpful! All the best with your writing!

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Robert April 2, 2015 at 4:02 pm

Good article. (Nice hook to get me to want to read the books.)

I especially like the idea of hooks at the beginning of chapters. As you’ve said, end of chapter hooks can seem clique, especially if it is a misleading tease. Many books I have enjoyed use a hook to raise a question at the beginning of the chapters and answer the question later in the chapter. Sometimes, these hooks are chapter titles. Len Deighton used chess moves to foreshadow action in “Funeral in Berlin.”

One question, though. Is there a problem in writing the hook(s) sometime later than first draft. It seems like wanting to write a great chapter hook would be a real speed bump.

hanks again

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Jami Gold April 2, 2015 at 7:12 pm

Hi Robert,

Ooo, great point about using the question/hook for a chapter title. The Harry Potter series used that technique a lot as well.

And to answer your question, as I mentioned in the wrap-up, we’ll often work on adding or strengthening hooks in revisions. There’s only so much we want to think about during drafting before we lock up and can’t write anything. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by!

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Mary Buckham April 3, 2015 at 2:22 pm

Hi Robert and a great question! Sometimes the pressure of writing that opening sentence or hooks on the first page at all can freeze a writer. If that happens than by all means don’t worry about hooks until the revision process. That’s often when we have a better idea of what our stories are really about so can be a win-win situation. And I’m glad you brought up using a hook as a misleading tease. IMO that will lose you readers rather than gain them and should be avoided. There are enough hooks that intrigue without false advertising to skip this pitfall. Thanks for stopping by and sharing!

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Jenn April 27, 2015 at 11:14 am

I’m confused. How is the answer 8?

Do you know how many hooks are included in the following sentence?
“Kill that baby!” — Sherrilyn Kenyon — Acheron

A: 8.

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Jami Gold April 27, 2015 at 5:38 pm

Hi Jenn,

I suspect the answer is in the book. In other words, the riddle is a hook. 😉 Thanks for stopping by!

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Mary Buckham May 24, 2015 at 11:26 am

Hey Jenn ~ So sorry to have missed your comment until now. Bad Mary! The reason the sentence has eight hooks is because, except for the evocative hook it contains all the other 8 hooks mentioned in the blog above. Because hooks can be subjective all 8 may not grab you in the same way but these four short words do contain action/danger (to a baby), overpowering emotion (a threat to a child or an animal ratchets up emotions more than the same threat to an adult), surprising situation (is this what a reader expects to happen when they pick up a Romance novel?) Totally unexpected (because of the same reasons for the surprising situation) shocking dialogue (if this is not dialogue you normally expect to hear, and since it threatens a baby, that rates as shocking to most people) unique character (if you don’t know or expect to know someone who can utter these words this is a unique character) foreshadowing (this threat or the events that might follow will impact the course of the story) and questions raised (what’s going to happen next). Hope this helps and again – so sorry I didn’t catch this until now!

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Jami Gold May 25, 2015 at 5:44 pm

Hi Mary,

Thanks for sharing that information! I figured you wanted to leave it as a hook, so I didn’t give you the heads up about the comment. Sorry! Thanks for checking up on us! 🙂

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