Do you remember that song by Blues Traveler? No, not the one on the Flipper movie. Get the image of Crocodile Dundee sticking his fingers into coconuts out of your head. I’m talking about their other song. It’s called The Hook. Go ahead, look it up. I can wait.
You get an “A” if you figured out what subject of today’s lesson is was from that song. I’ll give out extra credit if you caught what heck he said during that quick part at the end of the song. I still can’t figure that out.
Today’s lesson is all about “The Hook.” Do you know when you’re flipping around on your TV and a show grabs your interest? That is the product of that TV show’s writers successfully using a hook. Most commonly these happen right before commercial breaks or before the title screen. (When the theme song plays) This device is their best hope to keep you along for the ride through the break.
Using the hook is huge for fiction writing. We live in the day and age of high speed internet, Google, smartphones and tablets. Any and all information is available to us instantly thus we tend to have a much shorter atten..Oh what’s that? A butterfly?
Ahem, where was I? Oh yeah. We tend to have a much shorter attention span so it’s that much more important to use any and all tools at your disposal to keep your readers attention on your book.
Most articles that I have read try to get you to focus on one really big hook towards the beginning of your story. There’s nothing wrong with this method, but again, we are trying to keep the attention of our readers. That’s tough to do with only one hook, even if it’s a really big and shiny one.
I’m not much of a fisherman, but anytime I’ve went fishing with someone who knows what they’re doing, we use these things called rigs. They have three or four different hooks on them; not to mention open spots for weights and such. That’s a lot different than your grandpappy’s single hook fishing line. Times have changed and your hooks should too.
You can create the hook by putting your characters into a situation that seems like it’s impossible to get out of to the reader, or you could reveal some very big information. This can sometimes be categorized as a plot twist. You basically want to ask a question and then save the answer for later.
So where do you put these hooks? Imagine where your reader will stop. The end of chapters seem the most reasonable spot to me. It gives your book that “I just couldn’t put it down” quality that people love. If you want a really good example of how to apply a bunch of tiny hooks, look no further the any of the Hunger Games book. I’m serious; I swear those books move faster than Usain Bolt.
One word of caution, there is such a thing as too much. You have to let the reader breath on occasion. Plus every time you let them breath, the hook will be that much more effective the next time you use it.