Story Beginnings: Beyond the “Hook”

Dear Maggie,

I read what you said in an earlier post about using a “hook” to drag readers into my story and that really sounded, like, logical. And I did that but I don’t know where to go from there. I started my novel about a killer at a party camp in the woods with first writing about Beverly, the “environmental maintenance” person (think maid/housekeeper, etc). At first I just gave her complete biography, starting with where she was born and raised and where she went to school and other stuff like that.

Then I read your post about starting off my story with a bang, so I did that literally: I had the camp cook shoot Beverly in the first sentence which I inserted before the bio stuff. How does that sound to you? Am I opening my story right, now?

Yours truly,

Bio Man

Dear Bio Man,

First, I congratulate you on your wise choice of blog reading. You can’t go wrong with my creative writing tips which are aimed primarily at writers needing a bit more oomph in their writing. Frankly, though, it sounds as though you need quite a lot of oomph in your work.

As to your hook, you have the right idea, just not enough of it. One sentence alone is not enough to “hook” your readers, especially if you immediately follow it with super boring material like that biography. Since you want them to keep reading beyond the opening gambit, your hook needs to include whole paragraphs, even pages.

Next, and related to the hook opening, you never, never, never should load down your readers with a biolgraphical dump. Any background info you feel compelled to relate should be worked in a bit at a time, preferably in a “show, don’t tell” method so much touted in creative writing circles. If you have to “tell,” keep those parts as brief and entertaining as possible.

Finally, shoving your critical action in your reader’s face right at the start takes all the fun and suspense out of it. You need to build up to the heart of your plot slowly but steadily. If you tell your reader the juiciest stuff right away, they’ll close that book with a snap – or a “delete key” punch if it’s an ebook – and then where will you be? Never mind, I guess that’s unfair asking you such a mind-boggling question, one that actually requires you to think.

But I can tell already that reading at least one of my posts here has improved your writing. Stay tuned in and maybe, just maybe, you’ll come out with the “great American novel.” And if you believe that, I just happen to have a bridge I’ll sell you at a very reasonable price. It may not help your writing, but it will certainly improve your following.

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About aakemp

I am a fiction writer and freelance writer/proofreader with excellent research abilities as well. What I offer is high quality writing done in a smooth, logically consistent and error-free manner. No fluff ever with my writing! Just intelligent, interesting copy. My novels include the young adult fantasy, "The Dragons of Atlantis" and the thriller/mystery, "Beneath the Smoke," available on Amazon's Kindle program. Also "The Dragons of Atlantis" is available on OffTheBookshelf.com as an ebook or hard copy.
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