Tuesday, October 9, 2012

A Hook As A Gimmick - The Writer's No-No

It's easy to fall into the trap.  There are lots of writing instructors out there who'll tell their students they need to start their story with a good hook in order to pull the reader in, to gain their attention, to  keep them reading.

Are they right?  Yes, to a point, but unfortunately many writers go well beyond that point. 

Here's the thing - don't start your story with a wild car chase, guns blazing, tires screeching, people tossed around inside the cars and a big explosion at the end if what you're foreshadowing isn't a 'pedal to the metal' action story.

Yes, your story needs a good hook, and yes you want to grab those readers by the eyeballs. But, and it's a big but, you don't want to send your readers off in the wrong direction. You don't want to prime them to expect one thing and then deliver another. 

Readers have expectations. You have to anticipate and deliver in the context of your story. Your hook will be way different if you're leading into an action/adventure tale than if you're leading into a romance. That's not to say you can't have suspense and action in a romance, in fact you need it, but you want to set your hook differently.

If your hook has become a gimmick you've lost the game. If your hook doesn't provide the springboard into your story it isn't doing its job. If you as the writer have contrived the opening hook just for the purpose of 'hooking' and not moving into your story your readers are going to catch on fast and they're not going to be  happy with you. 

Additionally, if that's what you do you're going to be forced to cram in a whole lot of back-story early on creating a sludge that drags your story down while you try to explain your opening hook. 

My advice?

Take your time. Think about your opening hook. Some writers think they have to have that opening sentence down pat at the very beginning.  

No you don't. 

If you do, great, use it, move on. 

If you don't, write your story, read it again...and're going to have to anyway in the editing process.  Then let that hook line evolve and use it to kick off a really great story.

Readers are gold.  Trust them.  Consider who they are and what they're reading for. That magic hook will appear.

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