Thursday, February 9, 2012

Setting the Hook.

Any writer seeking publication has heard all about hooks. Not the treble, fishing kind of hook. The book hook.

Your query should hook the reader. Your first sentence should hook the reader. Your blurb should hook the reader. Your style and word choice should hook the reader. Your concept better have a good hook. Your voice should hook. Your first page should hook. Your first chapter. Your first three chapters.

So many hooks, so little time.

To make things even more subjectively thrilling, no one hook works for all readers. Sure there's general concepts/themes that intrigue lots of people, but you never know how effective your hook will be. Take Hannah Moskowitz's INVINCIBLE SUMMER. A big part of the hook was the triangle between one girl and two brothers. Did it squick some people out? Probably. Did some people feel intrigued enough to read on? Definitely.

Different strokes for different folks.

Books aren't universal. Yes, I know--your book won't be universal. In all likelihood, it will appeal to a very small niche market. I know my current WIP, Hell to Pay, is most assuredly a tiny niche-market book. It might be so niche-y it doesn't sell. Who knows. But I do know that the underlying hook of the book is pretty universal. The theme is pretty universal. Will it make a difference, I have no idea. Time will tell.

The same idea of hooking the audience also goes for movies. Like books, visual entertainment connects or hooks an audience on an individual basis. There have been countless times I have walked out of a movie theater with a friend and had a completely different reaction than they did. Completely. To the extent of them saying 'I loved it' and me barfing on the floor in response, or vice-versa.

But good movies and good books have one thing in common: they connect with you. They hook on some level that ellicits emotion, whether that emotion is joy, anger, despair, playfulness. They make you feel something. How strongly you connect is largely dependent on not only what you feel, but whether or not you like feeling that emotion.

I know writers have it tough to create hooker queries (ha!), I do. I struggle with them myself. But the cinematic world has a rough go with movie trailers--that's basically their version of the query. And we all know that some movie trailers are effective and make you want to see the movie. Some are not.

The Hunger Games trailer made me want to see the movie even before I'd read the books. In fact, I read the books because of the movie trailer. I'd heard lots of buzz surrounding Suzanne Collin's megaseller, but my to-be-read pile was (and is) enormous. I didn't see why I should add THE HUNGER GAMES, at least until I saw the movie trailer.

You know the part that hooked me? It's when the officials are leading Prim forward after her name's been drawn for the games. It's how Katniss struggled and fought and screamed, "I volunteer--I volunteer as tribute."

Every time I watch that scene a little part of my stomach clenches and the hairs on my arms prickle.

I love my sisters as much as life itself. That scene made me identify so strongly with Katniss (ass that she can be) that I rushed to my local bookstore and bought the series. Read them all in three days.

I'd say that hook worked for me.

What're yours?

Currently listening to: The time ticking down until I have to go back to work.

1 comment:

  1. Exactly, I don't expect everyone to love my books. Just a few million.ha

    And how funny we had the same experience with The Hunger Games. Watched the trailer and got major goosebumps, bought the books and read in marathon session, watched trailer again and cried.

    I'm so hooked.