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  1. heyharris1
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    heyharris1 Senior Member

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    how to hook somebody right away. confussed

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by heyharris1, Oct 23, 2007.

    Ok my question is i keep hearing how you want to hook somebody right away, ok im confussed a little, so could i get some help, in a short story i could see that, because you aint got much time to finish it, but in a novel say 700 pages. how do you do it. for instance, in the novel im attempting the whole first chapter is just about 2 people talking about the war that is going on, and how they are going to escape from it, its only about the last 5 pages or so when there is any real action. i went back to some of the books in my collection and read the beginning's and there was nothing there that really made me say "oh god i have to read this." Do you need a murder to get it started, a battle, somekind of secret thing to keep people wondering?
    lost and confussed
    jim
     
  2. Crazy Ivan
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    Crazy Ivan Contributing Member

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    Just be different, or something you think is different. The hook doesn't have to be a physical thing; it can also be a dramatic, emotional event. Something that makes readers go "What the heck? What is she talking about?" or "Ooh, hey, cool." It can be something subtle, like:

    Marsha hated family reunions.
    "I love these little family reunions of ours," she said, smiling and sitting down next to her sister.


    Right away, you're hooked. At least, I am. Why does she hate the reunions? Why would she pretend otherwise? What is the relationship between Marsha and her sister?

    Also, if your first chapter is just people talking, that might deter some people. If they're going to invest in a 700-page-novel, you'll have to work really hard to convince them upfront. It can't be a whole chapter of nothing but exposition and bad spelling. Maybe you could change the setting; they could be having the talk while watching over a battlefield, or maybe in the ER room during a medical emergency. Something like that to keep the readers interested even as the dialogue rolls on.
     
  3. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Heyharris1,

    Something is needed to hook the reader...to get them interested or invested in continuing the story. It doesn't have to be action such as a murder or violence.

    This link takes you to the first chapter of Laruell K. Hamilton's first Antia Blake Novel, Guilty Pleasures. Guilty Pleasures by Laurell K. Hamilton

    No real violence...but the first lines: "Willie McCoy had been a jerk before he died. His being dead didn't change that. He sat across from me, wearing a loud plaid sports jacket. " at least when I began reading, caught my attention. Made me start thinking...where is this going? Dead...and talking...still a jerk and why would she be coversing with this Willie McCoy fellow?

    The first book in Steven Brust's Vlad Taltos series, Jhereg starts: "There is a similarity, if I may be permitted an excursion into tenuous metaphor, between the feel of a chilly breeze and the feel of a knife's blade, as either is laid across the back of the neck. I can call up memories of both, if I work at it. The chilly breeze is invariabley going to be the more pleasant memory, For instance..."

    Brust's first chapter does involve some witnessed violence, but more in a passive witness sort of sense. But it hints that the POV character has lived through some harrowing experiences, and may end up relating some of them in the tale to come.

    Mitch Albom's The Five People You Meet in Heaven, starts with a chapter title: The End. It opens: "This is a story about a man named Eddie and it begins at the end, with Eddie dying in the sun. It might seem like a strange start to a story with an ending. But all endings are also beginnings. We just don't know it at the time."

    The first chapter goes on to count down the hour's passing minutes before Eddie dies, attempting to save a little girl.

    Those are just a few examples from successful authors.

    I guess it depends on the conversation in your novel's first chapter. What's its purpose? What does it achieve. If it's primary purpose is to give the background and get the reader "up to speed", that is a tall order to do and keep the reader happy. Not to say it can't be done, but allowing the reader to get up to speed over time while vital things to the plot are going on is usually better.

    What does the reader need to know minimum to get started? Add background and setting as the story goes along. If possible, keep the reader wanting a little bit more of the picture, instead of handing the canvas already filled in at once.

    There really isn't one right answer, method or forumual. If there was, everyone would have figured it out by now and be using it. But there are variations on some similar techniques, styles or methods that generally get published.

    Don't know if that's what you're looking for, or if I'm way off base. But it's one perspective. Hope it helps.

    Terry
     
  4. heyharris1
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    heyharris1 Senior Member

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    ok here is a break down of my first chapter, tell me if there is a hook in this , if not maybe i will redo it, i dont wanna post it yet cause its in dire need of editing.

    1. the world is set galaxies far away from our own, in a world ruled by dragons.
    2. The leader of the rebelion, Thatcher, informs the main character of the novel Avery that they are slowly loosing the war against the the evil dragon king. king drogan.
    3 he reveals that a old peice of ancient lore has been found, the book of portals.
    4. he reveals that the books magic has created a soulstone and a portal.
    5. he reveals that the portal is actualy a portal to earth. and the rebelion will be stored inside the soulstone, kinda like a suspended animation. and carried around her neck in form of a necklace
    6. on earth she will hatch a egg that is going to be implanted inside her it will hatch and a new king will be born. but he has to be raised in another world to survive.
    7. the enemy finds out about there plans by a traitor.
    8. the enemy finds there secret location and attacks. just at the end she makes it to the portal and is gone. she come out on earth.


    thats basically chapter one, thats what i mean. there is alot of background information discussed about the book of portals, the soulstone. this egg that is going to be implanted inside her to carry. how they are losing the battle and are going to be exterminated if this new king is not born.

    thank you for any info
    jim
     
  5. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Perhaps you could open with a short scene that makes the reader ask, "What is happening here?"

    You could start with a frightened person (child? beggar? ...) stumbling through smoking ruins at sunrise, watching the sky while desperately searching for a place to hide before "they" return...

    The idea is to immediately give the reader something to look forward to, always leave him or her hungry for more. For every bit of information you give, tease the reader with another mystery or two.
     
  6. adamant
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    adamant Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yeah... you could have the most interesting of stories, with the most extravagant content, but you have to keep the reader questioning what is on the page to have them see it.

    Why did that happen? Why is that bad? What's going to happen because of it?

    Doing that keep humanity's inquisitive at play, and keep your audience reading. Actually, there was a pretty good article about this on the FictionFactor website I believe. If you want to try to search for it, it's under 'General Writing > Resource Links'.


    Post Script: Yes, I will continue to plug that resource and the noobie packs until you all see the light!
     
  7. Funny Bunny
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    Funny Bunny Contributing Member

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    I generally throw the first 50 pages away as a pre-write. In that writing there will be a good place to start, but you need to really prune it down--with a machete, generally.


    If this is your first novel, try not to write a 700 pager. Seriously. Try for 250, or a decent sized trade paperback. Go to the library and really view the sizes the SF novels are. I was just in there today. There were several "new writer" novels of about 3/4ths inch to 1 inch. (not sure what this is in MM's Euro-guys). I spoke to a published author who said that a publishing company was more likely to look at a new author with a smaller book. Printing huge books is expensive. Smaller novels are also great ways to learn, and many authors, even ones who publish a book each year, write thin novels.

    Like the title, the Hook actually creates itself. You have to look at it as an impresario, from the viewpoint of "sales," because the hook is your flash marketing tool. You get the hook from knowing the story well. It usually turns up as you are writing. When I cruise the new author rack, I look at 1) the cover picture. 2) randomly check out the interior (landing on fight or sex scenes is a plus). 3) the first paragraph. I do this to all authors. I did it to F. Scott Fitzgerald today, (Great fight scene in "Tender is the Night." No one is exempt.

    I would shy away from talking heads chapters. Can you cut the first part up and "seed" it through the book, then start with an action scene? Doesn't need to be high drama, just action.
     
  8. heyharris1
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    heyharris1 Senior Member

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    hello,
    thanks everybody for the info, im going to reread chapter 1. i need to do some major editing anyways. maybe i will make the battle scene first. then why she is in the portal she can recall everything that was told to her. that way the reader know's why she is on earth, and whats going on. I do agree with the size, i dont think i could write a 700 page book i was just making that as an example. im almost done with it though, about 70,000 words into it. dont think i will make the recommened 100,000, got 3 chapter's to go, although i think the last chapters will be the biggest. cause now they are back on there own planet and the final battle are about to take place. Its gonna get nasty.
    thanks again
    jim.
    cant wait to start posting some, and im sure i will get totally detstroyed on review's but its ok i had alot of fun writing it.
     
  9. PaulChernoch
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    PaulChernoch New Member

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    I just rewrote the first chapter of my first novel, "Flight after Death". (Now I am rewriting the ending!) I read a book called "Techniques of the Selling Writer" by Dwight Swain. Excellent.

    The opening is exceedingly hard to write. The first chapter I wrote (three years ago) is now chapter 4! Every couple revisions I rethink where I am starting my story. Knowing when to begin is crucial.

    So, to give the flavor:
    Chapter 4 was too late in the story to start.

    Chapter 3 quickly jumped into a 15 page flashback and introduced too many characters at once. Bad. It was also sketchy, sjipping quickly from scene to scene to introduce information.

    Chapter 2 involved neither the narrator (I am writing in first person) nor the hero. Poor way to orient the reader. It's connection to the narrator was also not clearly explained.

    Chapter 1 came from recognizing that the story begins when the hero dies. My first attempt mostly included the obituary of the hero and the narrator's thoughts about it. Boring. I changed it so that the narrator learns about the death of the hero while being interrogated by the warden of the prison where he is an inmate, after he forged a document. So what I have done is: give the story of the hero's death, in a context of conflict, and given perspective to the information: the narrator is mad that the hero is dead because he wanted revenge. In the process I also slip in the introduction of two villains and the hero's wife, a dead reporter (why did she die) and the warden. But they were all introduced in an action scene.

    In the conversation I manage to work in one of the book's key themes, hint at a personal relationship between the warden and the prisoner that the prisoner was not previously aware of and which frightens him. The act of forging a document introduces the prisoner-narrator in character.

    Swain emphasizes the importance of introducing a character "in character" - doing something that typifies who they are. My prisoner is not just forging a document (the kind of thing which got him in jail in the first place) but is doing it to help a fellow prisoner get into a good hospital, showing that he is not all bad.

    Swain also emphasizes feeling - emotion. Shoot for capturing the feeling you want the readers to have.

    I am not 100% happy with my opening, but it is way better than what I had before. More to the point, it directly addresses many failings that Swain and others identify in their writing, and includes many of the essential elements of an opening.

    Most important: make a promise to the reader about what kind of story you are giving them, then deliver it. And end the chapter with somethig that will compel them to read the next chapter. My chapter ends by saying that the forces of Hell are after the narrator. So we have a crook, revenge, a dead construction worker, a dead reporter, the forces of Hell, and an unknown relationship between warden and prisoner. This promises supernatural suspense and poses lots of questions. And it leads right into the next chapter, which is set in Hell and has two demons planning the conquest of Earth, when they are interrupted by an attempted coup d'etat.

    Chapter 3 - into flashback. Chapter 4, forward motion resumes and continues uninterrupted until the end.

    - Paul
     
  10. Bluemouth
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    Bluemouth Contributing Member Contributor

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    You know I'm going to go against the grain here and say that I actually prefer books when there is no obvious attempt made to get me interested. Often I find myself immersed just by reading about a character who I'm meeting for the first time. I honestly find the idea of 'hooks' annoying, especially when they are apparently helpful in convincing a publisher to buy your novel.
     
  11. SAGMUN
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    Your two characters are talking about the war and getting away.

    Are they sitting around, cool and calm, discussing possibilities over a beer or a cup of coffee? Of course not! You have a great opportunity for foreshadow,
    back story, conflict. Are they disagreeing on way to escape? Is there a time limit? Are they getting messages about the enemies closing in? Is one character reasonable the other emotional? Let have recrimination. It's your fault with details. Is there several option of getting away, but only one safe one? Are going to suceed or not?

    Everything they say and do (what are they packing-up?) should lead, like a crescendo, to the chapters five ending pages.

    You have a great opportunity. You can fulill it.
     
  12. heyharris1
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    heyharris1 Senior Member

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    im in the process now of rewriting and reviewing, hince i havent been on much, taking the advice of the OUTSTANDING people here i have found numerious errors and fixed many but im sure i have missed many. i have also added alot to
    jim
     
  13. SoccerChamp11
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    You catch your reader's attention in an introduction.

    How do you do this? You can ask the reader a question, such as "Do you like to play video games?", "Do you like to wear hats?", etc. You can also end an introduction with a question.

    You can write an interesting fact or statement.

    Find out what most readers enjoy reading about. That can also help you what to put in your introduction, if you are unsure of what to write about. If you would like more information, PM me.
     

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