1. peachalulu
    Offline

    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

    Joined:
    May 20, 2012
    Messages:
    3,821
    Likes Received:
    2,379
    Location:
    occasionally Oz , mainly Canada

    Hook as idea or sentence?

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by peachalulu, Jan 23, 2015.

    What's your feelings on the hook? I've been looking at a list of over 600 top books http://www.alistofbooks.com/ browsing for something to read and noticed most of the opening sentences had been given. And not many of them are all that hook-y. They tend to be informative & crisp but rather plain. I've never been too keen on hooks ( sentences ) as I've seen a lot of great sentences that merged into rather ordinary scenes. In fact I would've preferred something with a lot less dazzle. I myself, even bungle some openings trying to maintain a 'hook.' I'm starting to rethink the idea that the 'hook' is more broad less immediate. Meaning you've got a few pages to set up your 'hook' rather than one sentence. What do you think?
     
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2015
  2. Tesoro
    Offline

    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 3, 2011
    Messages:
    2,825
    Likes Received:
    290
    Location:
    A place with no future
    I agree, I think the hook is more the initial paragraphs or pages rather than the very first sentence. I try to come up with something short, simple and that raise a question in the readers head. I do not overthink it though. I'm not much for long sentences of the kind that seem to be only a way for the author to show off their verbal skills. For me a good first sentence can be something as simple as "It was the last night of (year)", or "She thinks I'm her mother." (Taken from two novels I really liked) Something that creates a picture or a curiosity within me.
     
    MR.RD! Short Stories! likes this.
  3. GingerCoffee
    Offline

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2013
    Messages:
    17,602
    Likes Received:
    5,875
    Location:
    Ralph's side of the island.
    I don't think a 'hook' means the first sentence. The little summary on the back cover or on the book's webpage, maybe is only a sentence or two.

    I'm pretty sure not too many people read the first line of a book to decide to read it or not. But you do want the reader interested by the first few pages. That's where you start to lose some readers.

    However, I've read more than a few books that I had trouble getting interested in right away. But there is a point I'm going to give up. You don't win over or lose all the readers at the same place in the book.

    I would say, for an ebook, it's a good idea to hook the reader by the end of the free preview pages.
     
  4. minstrel
    Offline

    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 11, 2010
    Messages:
    8,723
    Likes Received:
    4,821
    Location:
    Near Los Angeles
    When I read a novel, I know going in that the story is a long one. I'm not looking for a hook in the first sentence or paragraph. I give the book at least several pages before I decide whether or not I'm interested in continuing.

    Even if there's no startling event at the beginning of the book, I am often lured in by the writer's style. John Steinbeck's East of Eden is one of my favorite novels, and it begins with a whole chapter of nothing but description of the Salinas Valley in California. Boring? Not to me. Steinbeck's description is ravishing and pulled me right in.
     
  5. peachalulu
    Offline

    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

    Joined:
    May 20, 2012
    Messages:
    3,821
    Likes Received:
    2,379
    Location:
    occasionally Oz , mainly Canada
    The hook thing is pushed on other sites, but not always. Depends on the reader. Sometimes I think it's because of the query which needs a good hook and writers are getting ahead of themselves - like the book is not just a novel but a package you need to understand from the get-go. I used to sweat the idea so much I couldn't get past the first sentence but I really don't care what I put down. And just recently I saw someone in a critique remark this isn't a good hook and I thought, jeepers that's a lot of pressure to put on someone to come up with the perfect opening sentence. Granted it wasn't exciting but it suited the scene.

    In this day and age definitely.

    I like these type of sentences too. Simple but something that makes you want to read on.
    Same here. I give the book about five pages maybe a chapter to pull me in. Sometimes if it's draggy, I'll skim until I feel like I've got to the point where the story really starts.

    East of Eden was good. I don't recall it starting like that - mainly what I remember of the book was that one half is from the mother's pov and the other half is from Cal's? Unless I'm mixing it up with something else.
     
    MR.RD! Short Stories! likes this.
  6. thirdwind
    Offline

    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2008
    Messages:
    7,351
    Likes Received:
    2,891
    Location:
    Boston
    Ideally, you should be reading 20-30 pages before making a decision. That's the rule I follow, and it has worked well for me so far. Worst case scenario I lose half an hour of my life.
     
  7. DaveOlden
    Offline

    DaveOlden Member

    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2015
    Messages:
    74
    Likes Received:
    34
    I think a good, quality Hook, should be both opening sentence and sustained from thereon. I mean, if it's just the opening line that does that, and the author lets go, that first sentence isn't fun anymore; it was just a "gotcha" attention-grabbing bait.

    The best hook line I ever read was -- hands down -- Michael Crichton's, in TRAVELS (a series of autobiographical essays).

    It is all the more powerful for it being non-fiction, true story.

    I paused reading just long enough to turn the book over, and double-check the spine. Sure enough:"NF"

    And Crichton sustains the interest through all of his writing.

    So in a way, the opening line not only triggers interest and engagement for the reader, I think it also sets the bar.

    -- Dave Olden
     
    Last edited: Jan 24, 2015
  8. thirdwind
    Offline

    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2008
    Messages:
    7,351
    Likes Received:
    2,891
    Location:
    Boston
    Let's not forget that one of the most famous first sentences is also perhaps one of the most uninteresting:

    "Call me Ishmael." - Herman Melville, Moby-Dick
     
  9. minstrel
    Offline

    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 11, 2010
    Messages:
    8,723
    Likes Received:
    4,821
    Location:
    Near Los Angeles
    While I agree with your point (at least, if I understand your point correctly), we have to understand that the standards for nineteenth-century writing are difficult to apply in the twenty-first century. Now, novels have a lot of competition: internet, TV, movies, radio, music, sexting (!), etc. None of those things existed in the nineteenth century - novels had the entertainment field to themselves. So there is some justification for asking for a hook of some kind, even though I'm personally not that turned on by them. ;)
     
    MR.RD! Short Stories! and Okon like this.
  10. thirdwind
    Offline

    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2008
    Messages:
    7,351
    Likes Received:
    2,891
    Location:
    Boston
    Kids nowadays are so spoiled... ;)
     
  11. Catrin Lewis
    Offline

    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2014
    Messages:
    1,665
    Likes Received:
    1,064
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    Plus the fact that in the 19th century most of Melville's readers would have been familiar with the Genesis story of Ishmael, the rejected and exiled natural son of Abraham, whether they were religious or not.
     
  12. Okon
    Offline

    Okon Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 26, 2013
    Messages:
    694
    Likes Received:
    389
    The last one isn't a problem for me. My phone refuses to download any messaging pictures... :(
     
    MR.RD! Short Stories! likes this.
  13. 123456789
    Offline

    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2012
    Messages:
    6,336
    Likes Received:
    3,084
    Are we talking for a published or unpublished work?

    If it's published, sure, give it a good chapter, maybe more. The publisher has done the weeding for you.

    If it's unpublished, especially something on here, I'm giving it a sentence, maybe a few at best, just like a publisher would ( so I've heard). This is because mediocre and bad writing is easy to detect from the very start. While a "hook" isn't necessary, it's not hard to tell from the first few sentences whether the writer has a strong voice or not, and whether the writer actually has anything to say.
     
  14. 123456789
    Offline

    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2012
    Messages:
    6,336
    Likes Received:
    3,084
    I don't think that's uninteresting.
     
    MR.RD! Short Stories! likes this.
  15. Bryan Romer
    Offline

    Bryan Romer Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 26, 2014
    Messages:
    891
    Likes Received:
    381
    I rarely struggle to achieve a first sentence hook. If it comes, then fine, but I normally focus on the first paragraph giving the reader something to think about.
     
  16. Tesoro
    Offline

    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 3, 2011
    Messages:
    2,825
    Likes Received:
    290
    Location:
    A place with no future
    I completely agree with this. There's nothing more annoying than an author starting a book with an attention grabbing first line and then letting the reader down by not making the rest of the book live up to it.
     
  17. Catrin Lewis
    Offline

    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2014
    Messages:
    1,665
    Likes Received:
    1,064
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    I think I had a pretty good one-sentence hook to open my work-in-revision. But things happened in the rewriting and I've had to introduce a prologue. Probably neutralized the whole effect. :(
     
    MR.RD! Short Stories! likes this.
  18. GingerCoffee
    Offline

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2013
    Messages:
    17,602
    Likes Received:
    5,875
    Location:
    Ralph's side of the island.
    In hindsight?

    If I judged the short stories in the short story contest on the first three sentences, I'd have missed some excellent stories. A few paragraphs, sure, but sentences? You might be missing some good stories.
     
    MR.RD! Short Stories! likes this.
  19. thirdwind
    Offline

    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2008
    Messages:
    7,351
    Likes Received:
    2,891
    Location:
    Boston
    Any publisher/editor/agent that only reads one sentence isn't worth dealing with IMO. Also, voice and style are developed over many, many sentences (paragraphs even).
     
  20. 123456789
    Offline

    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2012
    Messages:
    6,336
    Likes Received:
    3,084
    With my method, I'll never know!
     
    MR.RD! Short Stories! likes this.
  21. 123456789
    Offline

    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2012
    Messages:
    6,336
    Likes Received:
    3,084
    That makes no sense. Voice and style start with the first sentence.
     
  22. 123456789
    Offline

    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2012
    Messages:
    6,336
    Likes Received:
    3,084
    Also, since I am currently unpublished , in my humble point of view, probably almost any agent/ publisher/ editor is worth dealing with.
     
    MR.RD! Short Stories! likes this.
  23. thirdwind
    Offline

    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2008
    Messages:
    7,351
    Likes Received:
    2,891
    Location:
    Boston
    Compare
    with
    There's really not much difference between the two writers at this point. Unless it's a particularly meaty first sentence, it's hard to get a good feel for the writer until you read at least a few pages.
     
  24. 123456789
    Offline

    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2012
    Messages:
    6,336
    Likes Received:
    3,084
    They're both good sentences. Notice I didn't say "first sentence only." I said first sentence or first few sentences. Certainly not pages.
     
    MR.RD! Short Stories! likes this.
  25. 123456789
    Offline

    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2012
    Messages:
    6,336
    Likes Received:
    3,084
    also, why are you giving me quotes from published novels to argue a point I made regarding unpublished novels?
     
    MR.RD! Short Stories! likes this.

Share This Page