Thursday, August 13, 2009

Are You Hooked on Hooks?

You Can’t Hang A Novel On Hooks

I’m not a big fan of hooks. In fact, to the degree that a hook seems contrived to the reader, to that same degree the book is weakened. A hook should not be there simply because a hook is considered necessary by the author. A hook that attracts a reader into a story only to blend into an unexciting narrative will only alienate the reader.

An unjustified hook is like an advertising headline that promises “FREE MEDICINE” only to later in the body copy disclose that the shipping and handling chargers are actually higher than the medicine is worth. Consumers would resent this and so will romance readers.

Rules for Hooks

1. The story premise should be strong enough that employing hooks are not necessary.
2. The narrative copy should be strong enough to insure reader interest.
3. There should be a multilayered ongoing series of anticipatory events (AEs) that continually reward the reader for turning the pages. These AEs should include short term AEs which resolve in a few pages, intermediate AEs which take a chapter or so to resolve, and longer term AEs which take several chapters to resolve.

Now, after the above conditions are satisfied, then an opening first chapter hook may be advantageous. This also applies to an end of chapter hook leading into the next chapter. However, one should first strive to write in a way that renders hooks unnecessary to insure reader interest.

You can’t hang a complete novel on a hook or even a series of hooks.