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Creating A Good "Hook"

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Ireth, Sep 28, 2012.

  1. Shockley

    Shockley Maester

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    Well here's the issue I have with that: Your story from what little I can tell is fairly dark (starting with a kidnapping at all), so you have to be really concerned about tone. It's alright to be light-hearted, but I wouldn't suggest starting out like that.

    Harry Potter is a great example. The first book starts with something incredibly dark (the death of Harry's parents and his life with the Dursleys) and ends with something dark (the revelation that Voldemort isn't as dead as they think, oh and hey there's the dead body of my teacher.). It ends in the same way it starts - dark, foreboding of things to come.

    No scene is fully light-hearted throughout the series. Plenty start that way, but they never end like that - it could be the happiest Christmas ever, but you can bet your life that some awful/foreboding/evil gift will be delivered by the of the night. If they're enjoying some new wizarding experience that is cute and magical, you can bet Malfoy is going to show up and rain on their parade. Etc.

    So the light-hearted can't be there for the sake of light-heartedness; it has to fold into the darkness and, as written, that doesn't happen in your first chapter.
     
  2. Ireth

    Ireth Myth Weaver

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    All good points, though I have to point out another famous example that goes against what you've said. LOTR is epic and dark for most of the book, and yet it starts out with the hero's birthday party. Heck, the Shadow isn't even mentioned until chapter two. Granted, Bilbo's disappearance is surprising and a good kickoff to the book, but it's not really dark or foreboding until you learn that the Ring is the ONE Ring.
     
  3. Butterfly

    Butterfly Auror

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    I think it's important to stay objective about your writing. A few questions to ask yourself...

    What is the scene doing for the story?

    Is it getting in the way of telling the rest of the story?

    Is it interesting?

    Is it necessary?

    Is it one of your darlings?

    Will the story flow and work better without it?

    Does it do what it promises to do?

    Am I being honest about it?

    Most importantly - Does it work?

    Edit - Wanted to add -

    And - What are my reasons for keeping it/cutting of it?

    Will it improve if I do? -

    I've asked these questions of myself over and over and over. I have about a dozen different starts, from prologues to chapters. they were all false starts, and I think I've finally found the right one. It's only by asking questions such as these that I have come to finding it, but of course, nothing's set in stone. It may still change.
     
    Last edited: Sep 28, 2012
    Ireth likes this.
  4. Agran Velion

    Agran Velion Minstrel

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    Please take the below advice with a grain of fae dust.

    When I pick up a book at a store, I do four things.

    1) Check Cover (I judge the hell out of covers)
    2) Read back/dust jacket

    The first two are to make sure that I'm not picking up a vampire romance.
    3) Flip to a random page to make sure the writing is legible.
    4) I read the first chapter (or first few pages)

    I've always felt that the first pages are what should hook you, rather than set the scene. There's a whole wall of books in the store , and I can only buy a handful, so I make sure I'm interested right off the bat. Your first few pages are not the foundation (where you set the scene) but rather a sales pitch. I don't need to immediately know that the world I'm about to go to involves a duke who wants to conquer his brother's kingdom. What I do need to know is that there's a nobleman's son who has been has been taken at sword point and is looking to escape.

    I think the biggest problem with your hook, is that you know more about the characters than we do. If this is the first time I'm seeing the two of them, I don't really care too much about them, or their relationship. If I just opened the book in a bookstore and the first thing I start reading is about a happy daughter/father relationship, I'm going to start eyeing that book with the soldiers in the foxhole. I feel that it's always good to start off with some immediate tension or drama, if only to amuse people with bad attention spans like me.

    Now, some ideas:
    Maybe Ariel is already kidnapped, but is having flashbacks? This way, you have the immediate drama, but can still have the relationship between her and her dad put in (all you'd need to do would be break up this scene). The suspense of wondering how she got kidnapped would be pretty great as well.

    You could start off the chapter with blatantly saying that Ariel is going to get kidnapped. A bit more crude, but it might help add the tension you could be looking for.

    Maybe you can toss in a few things to throw off the lighthearted moment. Your two characters can still act the same way, but maybe have Vincent look outside the window and get a sense of forbidding, Ariel getting queasy when she steps outside, etc.

    Edit: Sorry if anything I said has been repeated or answered. I've had this page open (and not refreshed) for awhile.
     
    Last edited: Sep 28, 2012
  5. Ireth

    Ireth Myth Weaver

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    Very good points.

    Well, the author knowing more about the characters than others do is kind of unavoidable, but I see your point.

    I'm not too big a fan of flashbacks, generally. The first draft of my vampire novel utilized them, and I've since edited it out in favor of making the event that was flashed-back to be the beginning of the story, even though the original flashback happened on page two, after an equally-dramatic event which wound up being excluded entirely from the next draft due to changing character reactions.

    That wouldn't really fit with the narrative voice or style, which is strictly POV-based. When I enter a POV, I can't reveal anything they don't know, so saying right off the bat that Ariel will be kidnapped when neither she nor her father has any idea of it would be jarring and ruin the surprise when it does happen, and we feel her terror from inside her head.

    Well, that's what I was hoping to accomplish with the mention of things-that-are-not-trick-or-treaters lurking in the streets after dark. Maybe it wasn't blatant enough.

    No worries. :) Thanks for all your input.
     
  6. Shockley

    Shockley Maester

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    Lord of the Rings is great in spite of Tolkien's writing/composition ability, unfortunately, so I wouldn't use that as my rock.
     
  7. Ghost

    Ghost Inkling

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    I don't know. Keep that in mind for the rest of this post. :D

    I don't see why you'd keep a scene you hate. You're the author. This isn't a collaboration between you and the beta readers. That page is the first impression a reader will get. It ought to be something you're proud of.

    Anyway, I remember the scene didn't pull me in because I didn't enjoy either character and I didn't feel any curiosity or urgency. I wasn't concerned with the what might happen to these people, nor was their world interesting to me based on that scene.

    You might want to make a list of the things you love about the first version of the scene and a second list of the problems people had with the scenes. You don't have to do what others suggest, but if you can find where you're losing them you're better equipped to bridge the gap. (And if someone says, "Hm, why don't you make the daughter punch the dad?" it might actually translate to "Make something happen.")

    Also, I think conflict and tension help, but conflict between Vincent and Ariel isn't necessary. They're the easiest to latch on to because they're the only people in the scene. Since it begins with Vincent, perhaps you can give him a small problem, something to react to. Maybe a trick-or-treater says his costume sucks or threatens to egg his house. Maybe work piled up and, now that Ariel's going out, candy duty distracts him. (When he finishes, he'd realize how late it is and worry about Ariel.) Maybe he could play a prank on a trick-or-treater. Show his personality. Allowing him to react or experience more emotions might draw people in.

    I don't know these Marshall twins, but perhaps they could be the reason Ariel is going out on Halloween. Maybe they're younger and their parents wanted someone older to watch over them. Maybe their parents are protective of them and compromised by allowing them to go with Ariel. Of course, she wants to help her friends. Vincent and Ariel might talk about how the Marshall twins' parents want to protect them from witches or goblins and laugh it off. It could echo how Vincent needs to protect Ariel.

    Whatever you do, it should feel right to the story you want to tell. If you imagine them happy, let them be happy. Use what you know about the characters and the situation to add tension or intrigue in a different way.
     
    Ireth likes this.
  8. Ireth

    Ireth Myth Weaver

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    Very good point. :)

    Yeah, I see what you're saying.

    That's a good idea. I'll try that. ^^

    I like those ideas. Not sure if Vincent is much of a prankster himself, but he'd definitely be pissed if someone tried to prank him maliciously. I'll play with that and see what develops.

    The Marshall twins are close to Ariel's age (16-17), and are her friends; plotwise they're basically there just so Ariel isn't completely on her own when she goes out, because that would be foolish with what she knows of the Fae. She does end up alone later on, purely for plot reasons, because the prince wouldn't kidnap her if she had others with her. He's arrogant and ambitious to a fault, but not an idiot.

    *nodnod* I'll do that. Thanks for your help. :)
     
  9. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Myth Weaver

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    This is pretty much what I do as well - though I do not place quite as much emphasis on the cover, or even the title. But that's me - I've been around long enough, and read enough to realize the cover picture doesn't always reflect the content.

    Second observation I feel obligated to make: for me, the 'book store' is the book racks at the local Safeway, Wal*Mart, or a solitary independant book shop. In all of those places, the fantasy / sf section is all of about four feet wide and six feet high (though there is an overflow bookcase at the bookshop proper). Fully three out of five of the books on those racks are 'urban fantasy', usually featuring kickass female protagonists who are vampires, werewolves or wizardesses of some sort, or a more ordinary female with a fae, werewolf, or vampire connection. I have been wondering for a while now if the market for these books is a bit...saturated. If so, it is possible that submissions of similiar works from new authors might be more or less automatically rejected.
     
  10. Kim

    Kim Scribe

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    I have read the opening scene. First thing I notice is that they seem to be smiling all the time, so that doesn't give a sence of something bad is going to happen.

    But what I think might be the solution to your problem is the comment Vincent gives that he loves Halloween. If he knows that there is danger outside, he will not love this day. He might remember that there was a time when he loved it, but that was before something bad had happened (does that have something to do with her mother?). When Ariel comes down the stairs, he sees in her the excitement he once felt and for her, because he loves her, he pushes his feelings away and he wants her to have a great night. That he lets her go despite his own doubts is a great way to show the reader that he trusts his daughter.

    You use the father as POV, so it will not be hard to put these emotions and memories in, giving this scene some edge without telling what is going to happen. Vincent wouldn't want to think to much about it.

    I hope this helpes.
     
    Ireth likes this.
  11. Ireth

    Ireth Myth Weaver

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    Good point there.

    Just because something is dangerous doesn't mean you can't love it. Look at Steve Irwin (R.I.P.) -- he spent his whole life around dangerous animals, and loved every minute. The fact that he died because of one wasn't even his fault, it was the cameraman's for spooking the stingray who stung him.

    In an unrelated-to-WQ RP which also features the Hawks as main characters, they all still love dressing up for Halloween and having fun, despite the fact that Dunehelden (the school for supernaturals which Vincent and his brother Dom [there a mage and a lycanthrope, respectively] work at, and Ariel [still a normal girl] attends) is located in Faerie itself, and the Fae have actually attacked the school on Halloween night.

    Halloween and the Fae also have nothing to do with the death of Ariel's mother; she died in late November, of complications from difficulty giving birth to Ariel. The fact that a Fae tried to kidnap baby Ariel moments after her mother's death is sheer bad luck.

    Excellent points! That'll help a lot, I think.

    It definitely does. :D Thank you very much!
     
  12. Kim

    Kim Scribe

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    I'm glad it helpes. :)

    You're absolutely right, but you have to ask yourself if it works in this story.


    (Why am I called Ghost in the quotes?)
     
  13. Ireth

    Ireth Myth Weaver

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    I think that's an error on my part. I'll fix it. XD

    EDIT: ...or not. Looks like my time limit for that post ran out. :/ Oh well, you know who you are. XD
     
  14. Ghost

    Ghost Inkling

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    For a moment, I thought there was another member named Ghost. :rolleyes:

    Maybe you could look at the first pages of your favorite books, Ireth. See what it is that entices you to read on and see if you can apply it to your own book.
     
  15. Kim

    Kim Scribe

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    Don't worry about it, Ireth. I was just wondering what happened.
     
  16. Rullenzar

    Rullenzar Troubadour

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    Hi, so I have read the first few paragraphs and I'm no professional but it doesn't hook me either. The scene itself is very nicely setup but it's something I feel may be better suited deeper into the story. A possible solution could be a dream your main character may have of better times when she feels lost and down. I can't think of anything else right now.

    I've always been taught that the first paragraph of your story should be the hook. You need to create a paragraph that flows effortlessly and reads easy that not only sets up your setting but includes many little breadcrumbs that make the reader ask questions. It will take some time to get it just right and I highly recommend taking a look at other authors openers for a better understanding. You can see which authors pull you in with just one paragraph and which don't.

    This is probably the hardest part for any writer new or experienced.
     
  17. Ireth

    Ireth Myth Weaver

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    Thanks for your input. This is a very old version of the scene; I've done a fair bit of revision since, and will probably need to do more, but I'm liking it more all the time. You can see the revisions in the Showcase if you wish.
     
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