Tuesday, July 5, 2011

How To Be A Good Hooker

Are you good at seducing? Can you entice? Can you captivate an audience? Can you leave someone wanting more? Well I'm here to tell you that you need to be a good hooker....writer-style. (*wink*)

Becoming a good hooker might be a bit of a challenge, but with a little know-how, you will be well on your way to some good hooking. Who know's? Maybe you can even make some money with your new expertise! Hooking an agent, and then a publisher, can become profitable.

There are three areas where a writer needs to be a good hooker. Each one is important, and each one requires a special skill. Well, not really, but every writer should consider each aspect with a keen eye and a determination to hook like a pro.

The Title  Now, once you are published, this may be out of your control, but when you are shopping your book around, you need a great title - one that will grab the attention of potential agents and editors. Check out these titles:
A Passion Most Pure by Julie Lessman
The Husband Tree by Mary Connealy
Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen
Left Behind by Jerry Jenkins/Tim LaHaye
All of these are short, succinct, and tell a story in themselves. Look at A Passion Most Pure. When you think of passion, you don't normally think of purity, do you? But this book is about love's passion...in a pure way. The Husband Tree is about a woman who has buried three husbands under a big tree on her property. Fascinating, isn't it? Makes you wonder about the woman...what happened to her husbands? How does it affect her? It hooks, doesn't it?

Make your title have something to do with your story. Make it short, using words that pack a punch. If you are stumped, try using song lyrics. What about these songs? Could they make a great title for a book? Unforgettable by Nat King Cole. The Girl Next Door by Frank Sinatra. Good Luck Charm by Elvis Presley. They all spark some sort of story in your head, don't they?

The First Line  Admit it. You've gone into a bookstore, were grabbed by a great title, opened the book up, read the first line or two,and then put the book back on the shelf. First lines matter. They really, really matter. This is your opportunity to hook the reader and make them want to keep reading down the page. Check out these first lines...
"Belle Tanner pitched dirt right on Anthony's handsome, worthless face." The Husband Tree by Mary Connealy
"He stood hard and unyielding, one arm stretched across the entry as if to block Kayla's approach." Winter's End by Ruth Logan Herne
"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife." Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen
"All children, except one, grow up." Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie
I love the first line of The Husband Tree. It hooked me right away, and made me wonder about this woman  burying a man, who we find out is her husband. Doesn't it make you want to keep reading? How about the line from Winter's End? Nothing like an alpha hero to get me interested!

Make a statement with that first line. Bring in conflict right away. Make the reader wonder. Make them question. Capture their attention, then reel them in, using a vivid, active scene to hook them good!

Chapter's Ending Sentence  So you have hooked your reader with a great title and a great opening line. Most people will read through a chapter, but what will make them read another? And another? You have give the reader a reason to start that next chapter. You must hook them at the end of each and every chapter. Check out these ending sentences...
He leaned down to kiss her.
"Not so fast."
The voice, accompanied by the crack of a jacked shotgun jerked Wade's head around.
The Husband Tree by Mary Connealy
Aww, how sad. A kiss interrupted. Any lover of romance hates to have a kiss interrupted, but it is a great way to hook the reader. The reader knows good and well that the hero and heroine are going to kiss at some point, and they will want to read all about it.
He was a dreamer. He wanted the impossible from her. Dawn would come for him, too, and he would awaken.
Angel didn't want to be anywhere around when he did.
Redeeming Love, by Francine Rivers
Uh oh, sounds like someone is about to run away, and the reader will keep reading to see if they do. They will need to find out if they ever come back. Keep the reader wondering what is going to happen next.
He'd already seen wariness in Mary Grave's flashing green eyes. He suspected she could make trouble for him. How much trouble remained to be seen.
Courting the Doctor's Daughter by Janet Dean
Looks like someone either has a hidden agenda or has a plan for good that will find some obstacles. Every reader wants to see someone overcome. Throw obstacles in the way and see how they grow in character and leap over the hurdles put in their way.
The guards moved toward the king, but he drew his sword and backed them away. Then he stepped up and stood atop the ridge of stone teeth and, with sword in hand, jumped into the blackness of the pit.
The Devil's Mouth, by Thomas Williams
Looming adventure and danger are great ways to hook your reader. There's nothing like jumping into a dark pit with sword in hard to create creepy scenes in the reader's head. Suspense is a great hooking tool.
Oh, I know this is going to come back to bite me. I just know it.
A Girl's Best Friend, by Kristin Billerbeck
And the reader knows it too! And the reader will keep reading to see what kinds of things come back to bite this heroine and make life difficult. You feel the inner struggle and you want to urge the heroine to either be smart and don't do it, or gear herself up for what's to come. What will the character do? It's the "not knowing" that will keep the reader reading.

So there you have it. Three ways to help your skills in hooking. Do some research and crack open some books, taking note of opening lines and ending sentences. Do they hook you? Could you do better?

What are some of your opening lines? Or how about sharing some great hooking sentences? Or better yet, who are your favorite "hookers"? (One of my favorites, if you can't tell, is Mary Connealy. She is a master!)

Happy Hooking!

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Picture courtesy of http://www.great-lakes.org/reviews/review-09-12-05.html

17 comments:

Freya Morris said...

Hey Sherrinda,

Great post. My favourite hookers are JK Rowling (always leaves a chapter in suspense) and Patrick Ness (just read one of his) is full of them!

You definately made me think about my opening sentence for my children's novel, not sure if it needs work:

"A familiar and foreboding feeling clutched at Rose. Something was about to happen."

Thanks again!

Jeanne T said...

Sherrinda, what a great post! I love the "hooker" idea. Your examples really illustrated what you were talking about!

I feel pretty good about my title, and I'm making progress with leaving my chapter with a disaster or page turning ending, but my first sentences are weak.

The one for my wip that I'm re-thinking currently says:
"She hated being the only one without a partner in a dance studio full of couples."

Thanks for making me think, Sherrinda.

Kathi Oram Peterson said...

You hooked me with the picture. I have a hook (really) on the cover of my new book.

Great advice.

Peaches Ledwidge said...

A good post with a good title that hooked me.

Miss Good on Paper said...

The title of this post is a good example of a hooker! Yes, titles and first lines are so important to grabbing the reader's attention. This is a good reminder. Thanks!

-Miss GOP
www.thewritingapprentice.com

Sherrinda said...

Freya, Rowling is good at keeping you reading, isn't she? And I like your opening sentence! For a children's book, it gives you a sense of expectation. Good job!

Jeanne, I like your opening sentence! It gives me a sense of loneliness and want. Perfect! Like you, I don't think my first sentences are very good.

Sherrinda said...

Kathi, you DO have a hook on your book cover! I enjoyed your site and I must say, I am intrigued by your book, The Forgotten Warrior. A story about a man with a sword if very appealing to me.

Peaches, thank you! I was hoping the title would grab somebody. ;)

Sherrinda said...

Miss GOP, thank you! I tried hard to find a gripping title. I did run it by the Alley gals for approval. We are G rated, you know. ;)

Sarah Forgrave said...

My favorite line of the post: "There are three areas where a writer needs to be a good hooker." HA! Call the police, 'cause Sherrinda's getting a little crazy around here. :)

Sometimes a little shock or humor can be a great hook, as you demonstrated by your awesome title. I think it was Jody Hedlund who described great ending hooks as read-on prompts. I love that description, because it's so true...The reader will let their dinner boil over and their kids open the oven door for the sake of reading on. :)

Beth K. Vogt said...

I agree with Miss Good on Paper: You hooked me with your header for your blog post! LOL!

Good info, good examples. Here's an example of a great opening line from Susan May Warren's latest book, "Miss Foolish Heart": For two hours a night, Monday through Sunday, Isadora Presley became the girl she'd lost.

Julia M. Reffner said...

Fun post, Sherrinda! I loved the concept behind The Husband Tree (and the book...great hook). I read a great first line recently:

"Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, General Aureliano Buendia was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice."-Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Specific, descriptive, and boy does it leave the reader wondering...

Pepper said...

I wonder what Mary Connealy would say if she heard you called her a 'good hooker'.
LOL

Loved this post, Sherrinda.

I LOVE writing hooks. What fun. I did a whole post on 'beginning' hooks on my blog last year (if you want more examples - http://pepperbasham.wordpress.com/2010/08/16/catch-a-reader-by-the-hook-great-first-lines/

Mary is one of my favs too.
Aren't you going to use any of your own examples? ;-)
I've tried to make an end of chapter hook on every chapter of my Spec Fiction, but it can be so hard.
First hook AND last hook.
Sigh
All this hooking - I feel like a fish. :-)

Cindy R. Wilson said...

Ha! I love this post, and those were great examples Sherrinda! I really, really need to remember how important first lines can be and how they can really draw in a reader, or even better at this point, and agent :)

The first line of one of the stories I'm working on right now is, "Sometimes misfortune had great timing." Thought I'd work a little harder at gaining the readers interest ;)

Angie said...

Great Post!!! I have the most trouble with chapter endings...a sentence I think sounds dramatic and intriguing...usually falls short. Hopefully I can make my wip more hooky... :)

Sherrinda said...

Oh Sarah, I've let many suppers get a little "done" while finishing just one more chapter. :) And I think I remember Jody Hedlund talking about it in that way. She's very wise, don't you think?

Beth, I haven't read Susan May Warren's book yet, but my goodness...what a great first line. Very compelling!

Sherrinda said...

Julia, oooo, that was a nice first line. What in the world? Going to see ice? That is just weird! :)

Pepper, I think Mary might laugh a little bit. At least, I hope she would! I hope I don't offend her. I would think in a spec. fiction, you could really up the suspense. I can't wait to read it!

Sherrinda said...

Goodness, Cindy, that is a great first line! You have some wonderful tension in that little sentence!

I had fun looking up hooking lines, and had a hard time putting some books down..even though I'd read them before! lol

Angie, I bet you are a much better hooker than you think you are! ;) Sometimes it is hard to see our own "genius".