WRITING WORKSHOP, Part 3
Many years ago, when we still communicated by snail mail, I recall writing to the person heading an RWA contest, asking plaintively, "What's a hook?" (One of the items listed on the chapter's Score Sheet). She was kind enough to reply in depth, a favor I have never forgotten. And the incident points up how important it is for authors to share their knowledge with others. Such a simple thing, a hook. But I needed to know what it was, and someone took the time to explain it. I later joined that chapter and was taught about contest judging by the very same gracious lady, who is gone now. Her chapter has honored her by naming their contest in her memory.
A recent discussion on one of my author loops also pointed up how important it is that published authors share their hard-earned knowledge with unpubs, and that we do not get up on our high horse and ignore, or "look down" on, those who are still struggling with the basics. So here is my definition of a hook. And, yes, hooks are an essential part of writing your book.
Hook: the last line in a chapter that keeps readers turning the page. The sentence that "leaves readers hanging" in the grand tradition of the heroine tied to the railroad tracks, the announcement of a surprise pregnancy, a bad guy with a gun trained at the hero's head."
In the past a good hook was most emphasized for the end of Chapter 3, as that was the end of the traditional submission package. More recently, a hook is encouraged for as many chapters as possible, beginning with Chapter 1.
Way back in 1998, when I submitted Tarleton's Wife to RWA's Golden Heart contest, I still had no idea what a hook was. Yet by some miracle my entry ended with a great hook. (Which I had written instinctively, without knowing what I was writing had a name.) And, yes, Tarleton's Wife won the Golden Heart that year, and I strongly suspect that great hook had something to do with it.
From Dark Light, a Futuristic by Jayne Castle
Background: On a planet somewhat similar to earth, a young female reporter has been writing articles criticizing a very powerful organization called "The Guild." She has finally gotten an interview with the Guild Boss, who surprises her by admitting to some problems in his organization. Near the end of Chapter 1 he further surprises her by suggesting they work together to eliminate the problems. And then . . .
He watched her with a steady, unwavering look. "I'm dead serious."
It was the word dead that aroused all her new journalistic instincts. Okay, maybe he was serious.
"This would be a Guild story?" she asked warily. "What, exactly, do I have to do to get this hot exclusive?"
~ * ~
Since the next section of the Writing Workshop is Plot, which is long and complicated, I'll stick with just the Hook for this week. But I invite you to go back through the Archives of Mosaic Moments and check out any writing & editing hints you might have missed. Or some of the photo essays, just for fun of it. Now that we're moving into 2015, I'll be posting another Index shortly.
Thanks for stopping by.
For Grace's website, listing all books as Blair Bancroft, click here.
For a brochure for Grace's editing service, Best Foot Forward, click here.