Thursday, November 11, 2021

Baiting the Hook: Rules to Capturing a Reader (Lydia)

So, you’re getting ready to pitch your book, whether to a publisher or to your potential readers, and now you’ve finally reached one of the most difficult parts:  writing your hook.  And, while writing a hook isn’t completely impossible, it can be daunting, especially facing the task of condensing a 70K+ novel down to a single sentence.

The key to a solid hook is to focus on the why.  Why should you read this novel?  Why is this novel interesting?  Why is the plot worth your time?  Here are a selection of “rules” to help you with boiling down your story to a single, solid, gripping hook.

The Rule of Cool:  The Rule of Cool is especially popular for crafting Middle Grade hooks.  Mainly because a Middle Grade novel tends to ride on wish-fulfillment and epic storytelling.  So, the question becomes: how epic are we talking here?  Are we talking time-traveling warriors battling with laser swords from the backs of dinosaurs?  Or a group of kids with superpowers who are forced to have a break-dance dance-off against a group of disco monkeys for the sake of the universe?  Find the most epic parts of your plot and jam them into an irresistible one-liner that will spark the curiosity of your readers.

The Rule of Tragedy:  If you’re pitching a tragedy, often times the readers are looking for a hook that will promise a ton of pain, but pain with purpose and meaning.  So, your question should be:  what will be taken away?  What will be lost?  Focus on the unstable elements within your story that will inevitably lead to tears, like a romance between a healthy individual and one with a terminal illness.  The reader knows how it will end, but they will read to discover the deeper purpose and underlying themes and struggles of the characters along the way.

The Rule of Comedy:  With comedy, especially a romantic comedy, your hook should be built on the principle of Murphy’s Law.  What can possibly go wrong?  What’s the big misunderstanding?  What is going to get in the way of the characters, and why do they need to fix it?  A comedic hook tends to be built more on irony, so the more ironic your hook, the more likely you are to pique a reader’s interests.

The Rule of Change: This is the rule for writing a hook for a hero’s journey.  With this hook, your goal is to set up the overarching themes and messages of your narrative as a whole.  What kind of journey lies ahead?  What’s at stake should the character fail or succeed?  And what antagonistic force is working against the protagonist along their journey?

The Rule of Mystery: A mystery hook is built on clues and the need for a solution.  So, when crafting a mystery hook, ask yourself:  what answers need to be found?  What clues will the reader and the protagonist have at the start of the story?  And what makes the mystery itself difficult or nearly impossible to solve?

The Rule of Thrill: For a thriller hook, your goal should simply be built on risk and stakes.  What’s at risk for the character, and what are the stakes should the character succeed or fail?  Keep it brief, intense, and tantalizing.  A thriller hook is built on brevity and intensity.

The Rule of Wholesomeness:  Wholesomeness is definitely a very popular style of writing, and one that can be especially difficult to write a gripping hook for.  But, with a wholesome and feel-good story, your goal should be to get to the core of your narrative and draw out the warmest, deepest parts.  What does your story offer to the reader?  Comfort, restored relationships, healing, romance?  If the reader knows the type of wholesome core your story holds, they’re much more likely to pick it up and enjoy.

These are just a few of the rules for crafting a solid hook.  What do you think?  What are some of your rules for writing a hook?


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