Friday, July 2, 2010

How to Write Your Novel's Hook

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by C. Patrick Schulze

Listen to a PODCAST of this article.

We've all heard how important it is to begin your NOVEL with an effective hook. The reason, of course, is your novel's hook helps potential readers make many of their decision about your book. Be it AGENTS, publishers or readers, everyone seeks out these first few words and these lines make a lasting impression.

When I focused on that first paragraph, I spent a great deal of time to research how to write my novel's hook and I thought I'd pass along some of the better tips I found.

By the way, I just made up these hooks as I wrote this article, so cut me some slack if they're not up to par, okay? After all, there's just examples.

1. You may craft an opening that sets a mood. This is the method I employed in "Born to be Brothers" when I wrote, "Something was about to die."

2. One alternative is to pique the reader's curiosity. "I always wondered how it felt to die."

3. You might pen a line that compares two things not normally associated with each other. "Jackson couldn't decide if he should go to his father's wedding or his mother's funeral."

4. You can have your main character perform an action. "He mumbled to himself as he lifted the pocket watch from the dead man's vest."

5. You may wish to indicate something is about to change in a radical fashion. "I felt my body grow lighter as it began to blend with the fog."

6. Why not begin with an intriguing person or place. "The countryside looked as if an artist had painted his fondest vision."

7. One choice is to have a character speak about an unusual situation. "Yep, I seen it all. It exploded and blew that guy to kingdom come."

8. Another option is to offer your reader something unexpected. "The aircraft crashed into the ground with a fiery explosion. Then the pilot stepped out and dusted himself off as if it was all in a day's efforts."

9. You might open your novel with dialogue. "Are you ready to tell me about it now?"

10. Yet another opportunity lies within immediate conflict. "She knew she'd get in trouble even as she clinched her fist." I'm working on my next novel and this is how it starts, at least in the first draft.

11. A strong hook can begin with an emotion. "I hated that man from the moment I met him."

12. Yet another opening hook might be to offer your reader a puzzle. "I wondered how could a human being shrink so much in one night?"

13. Have you ever thought to startle your reader? How's this? "I never knew humans tasted like chicken."

Of course, there are any number of other methods by which to create your novel's hook, and you can even combine two or three of these ideas for maximum effect. Regardless, your goal is to draw your reader into the story and you've got only one chance to do so. Best of luck with it.

Now, does anyone have a hook they'd like to share with our readers?

I hope by now you know, I wish for you only best-sellers.

C. Patrick Schulze
Author of now-at-the-editors novel "Born to be Brothers"

19 comments:

  1. This is such an expansive list! For our line-by-line contest over on our site, it's interesting to see which of these approaches contestants are utilizing. You can also see why certain openings just didn't make Natalie Fischer's cuts. We're linking you up for next week- like it or not ;)

    Marissa

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  2. C. Patrick SchulzeJuly 2, 2010 at 3:25 PM

    I'll take a look at your contest, Marissa. Should be interesting.

    Thanks for stopping by and thanks for the link, too.

    Patrick

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  3. That's quite a list, Patrick. I usually go with the action scenes, or set a mood scene. One of my opening sentences is:

    Leaning against the stern tree, Thomas Woodling watched the approaching enemy with the eyes of a hunter stalking its prey.

    I found that worked pretty well, because I could jump into some action quickly and start the book rolling.

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  4. C. Patrick SchulzeJuly 4, 2010 at 12:05 AM

    Nicely said, Ryan. Introduces the character, sets up the conflict, introduces all sorts of questions and had a great simile. Nice work.

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  5. "Tarkas was running for his life. Again."

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  6. Great list. I spent a lot of time thinking about my first line, ultimately opting to a create a paragraph that invokes the same emotions troubling my prot. Not quite as exciting as some of your options, but here's hoping subtlety can be as effective as action. Here it goes:

    Lucy stared intently at the fire. It wasn’t real of course, but that didn’t stop her. She was drawn to the movement of the flames, the regular, rhythmic, undulating grace of each lick of fire moving in harmony with the other. It was so easy to get caught up in it...

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  7. my current novel-in-progress starts with;
    It wasn't my fault! I had nothing to do with the death of my father, Rick Peppers.
    Hooked yet? :)
    Great post!

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  8. C. Patrick SchulzeJuly 8, 2010 at 8:47 AM

    Hey, Author Guy. You're hook does the job real well. It creates a question, offers conflict right out of the box and all the rest. Nice work.

    Patrick

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  9. C. Patrick SchulzeJuly 8, 2010 at 8:49 AM

    Café Lopez, You've set a mood, alright. Does any conflict rise soon thereafter?

    Patrick

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  10. C. Patrick SchulzeJuly 8, 2010 at 8:49 AM

    Heidi,

    Yes. I am. Well done.

    Patrick

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  11. Thank you! I am about to start the agent hunt soon & I plan on using this post in crafting my query. Thanks again for a great post. :)
    Heidi

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  12. Thanks - internal conflict is introduced at the end of the paragraph, and then the story jumps right into action. I appreciate the comment.

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  13. C. Patrick SchulzeJuly 8, 2010 at 5:53 PM

    Best of luck, Heidi with your agent search. Let me know how it turns out?

    Patrick

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  14. C. Patrick SchulzeJuly 8, 2010 at 5:54 PM

    Excellent, Cafe! I think you've got a winner. Good luck with it.

    Patrick

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  15. I will let you know. No worries about that. :) In fact, I will let as many people as possible know! :D

    Heidi

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  16. C. Patrick SchulzeJuly 9, 2010 at 3:02 PM

    And I'll be sure to pass the word along, Heidi.

    I wish you a best-seller!


    Patrick

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  17. This is a great list with amazing examples. Thanks!

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  18. Great list! Thanks for passing along your research and ideas. I would imagine that these tips would work for a Query hook, as well.

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  19. C. Patrick SchulzeJuly 13, 2010 at 6:46 AM

    Thanks for your comments, Julie and Melissa. And, yes, they do work for your query, too.

    Patrick

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