Friday, November 18, 2011

What is Your Novel Missing? Hooks

For the last few weeks we've been talking about what could be missing from our novels - mostly based on key things I notice lacking from my own work. If you'd like to read the other posts, you can check out Senses or Deep POV.

This week, it's all about drawing readers into the story with every new scene, or keeping them reading at the end of every scene or chapter. We writers like to call these read on prompts and hooks.

They make you want to read on. They make you look at the clock, know it's too late to keep reading, but you have to do it anyway.

Asking a Question

Hooks make you ask a question, or maybe make you wonder what's going to happen next. For example...

It wasn't the worst break-up he'd had, but close.

This hook makes you ask who is this guy? What was the worst break-up he'd had, or why did he just break up with someone? Anything that immediately makes your reader want to read on to answer a question is a hook.

The Right Time During the Action

Dropping readers in the middle of action is a great way to hook readers and make them want to read on.

Cecily's car skidded sideways, her foot pumping uselessly against the break. Ice bloomed out all around her and her hands spasmed against the wheel. She spotted the tree two short breaths before the impact.

Starting a scene in the middle of action is a quick and simple way to snag your reader.


Just as it's a good tactic to start a scene at the best place during the action, it's a great idea to hook at reader at the end of a scene by stopping in the middle of action.

Banging his knuckles on the back door of the restaurant, Mason muttered about his phone, just as irritated with himself for leaving his cell inside as he was with Rebecca for distracting him with all her problems. When no one answered he cupped his hands around his eyes and peered inside the window.

Light refracted off broken glass, a dark liquid spread across the floor inside. His stomach clenched, his feet backing up automatically until they hit a hard surface. Then a hand clamped on his shoulder.

Leave your character wanting to turn the page to see what's going to happen next. Is Mason in danger? Is someone hurt? Make your reader keep reading.

Character Revelations

Reveal something new about a character to either start or end a chapter. It connects the reader to your character and makes your reader want more.

Maggie eased open the front door at the sound of the bell. A bouquet of red roses sat directly in front, baby's breath filling out the rest of the crystal vase. She swallowed hard. A sweet gesture for sure, but the last time she'd gotten such an extravagant display of flowers it had preceded a proposal.

And last time, Maggie swore she'd never get herself in a serious relationship like that again.

Revealing history or information and quirks about your character is a useful way to get readers to want to know more.

Other ways to implement a hook are to use humor, state something that makes the reader think, or use an interesting piece of dialogue.

Invest some extra time in starting or ending chapters in a way that makes the reader want more and you've accomplished a challenging feat, but one that will really help your story.

What are some ways you hook a reader into wanting more?


Cindy is a Colorado native, living near the mountains with her husband and three beautiful daughters. She writes contemporary Christian romance, seeking to enrich lives with her stories of faith, love, and a touch of humor.

To learn more about Cindy, visit her at her personal blog,


Keli Gwyn said...

Great info, Cindy. I've used all these techniques.

I didn't start off knowing about hooks, though. In my florescent green newbie writer days I'd wrap up each chapter all neat and tidy and tie it with a bow. Can you say boring?

Jeanne Takenaka said...

Yay, another Colorado gal! :) It's always fun to learn of other writers who live here. :)

This is a great post. Though I know not to make everything end just perfectly at the end of a chapter, I still need a lot of work at making my ends "hook" readers in. Also the beginnings. Before going to Susan May Warren's Story Crafters retreat in 2010, I never knew how important it was to have an opening sentence for my scenes that would grab readers. Susie showed us how to hook readers in by opening a scene with the thought the POV character was thinking at that moment.

Rachel Hauck has a saying: "Arrive late. Leave early." or something along those lines for writing scenes. I'm learning how to "arrive late" and not give too much boring information before the action begins. :)

I'm cutting and pasting this post to refer back to. Thanks!

Cindy R. Wilson said...

Hi Keli! You put it just right. Wrap up the scene or chapter with a neat and tidy bow. As a newbie that seems the logical way to do it. It's a good thing we have lots of time to practice, learn and grow :)

Cindy R. Wilson said...

Hi Jeanne! How cool you live in Colorado too. Sometimes I feel all alone out here and then I discover that are so many other writers out there that live nearby. Yay!

Those are great tricks to use for hooking readers. I really believe it's something you learn simply by putting it to use. The more we practice our hooks and read on prompts, the more naturally they'll come. Have a great weekend!

Embrace said...

These are great tips to remember. Sometimes I get so caught up in the story telling (moving the plot along) that I forget to sculpt each chapter beginning and ending. I think I am better with the endings than the beginnings though. I will have to work on that in the edits.

I like the quotes shared by Jeanne. I am learning so much from Susan and Rachel at MBT!!

Fantastic post!

Jennifer Shirk said...

Those are great hooks!
I think I tend to use character revelations the most in my own writing. I think it's how I leave hints for myself while writing. LOL

Mary Vee Writer said...

I can't think of any other ways to hook, you mentioned all the good ones, Cindy. :)
Great post.

Sarah Forgrave said...

Great post, Cindy! You did a great job explaining and providing examples. Makes it so much more concrete. :)

Raquel Byrnes said...

Your examples rocked! The ice blooming and the short breaths before impact. Wow.
Enjoyed your post immensely.
Edge of Your Seat Romance

Cindy R. Wilson said...

Jodi, I like what Jeanne said as well and I'm glad you're learning a lot from Susan and Rachel. There's so much that goes into every single scene, it's hard to remember everything. I agree that ending a scene with a hook is easier than starting one with a hook.

Cindy R. Wilson said...

Jennifer, that's a great point. And a good way to leave hints. Character revelations are fun and they do double duty, too! Thanks for stopping by.

Cindy R. Wilson said...

Hey thanks, Mary and Sarah! I'm always looking for new ways to improve my work so this post helped me, too :)

Cindy R. Wilson said...

Thanks, Raquel! Glad you stopped by. Why do examples seem so much easier to do in a post than in real WIP's? :) Have a good weekend!

Casey said...

I love cliffhangers and character revelations. Those are a great deal of fun to craft too!

Cindy R. Wilson said...

Hi Casey! I agree, character revelations are so fun to create. You get to ease in more information about a character while enticing the reader to continue on. Good stuff!