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Bob Nailor

Writer: Gone Fishing

Any fisherman worth his catch knows that you have to use the right lure and a proper hook to land the big one. Writing is the same. If you want to catch a sale, you have to use a real good lure and hook.

Go ahead, write that “Great American Novel” currently screaming silently inside your head. Without the right hook to catch the reader’s attention, you’re just letting your bait drown in boredom and looking at a “no sale” rejection action.

Exactly what am I talking about?

When you slip that manuscript into the mailbox, or email, you relinquish, completely and irrevocably, your ability to nurse your baby any longer. The story must stand on its own merit. For that to happen, you must have the reader’s undivided attention.

So, before you can reel that person in with the story you’ve created, you must first hook the audience with the beginning paragraph.

Let me give you an couple of examples.

He sat there watching the smoke, reading the flames that could foretell his future.

He sat there watching the curls and wisps of smoke, each a possible destiny, as the licking flames of the fire unfolded potential futures before him.

* * * * *

Susie hated her pink dress and sat there watching Billy flirt with Joan.

Susie pulled at her dress and knew this wasn’t her color. She fumed, watching Billy flirt with Joan and knowing full well he wouldn’t notice her in this horrible pink frock.

Can you see the difference? Both sentences relayed the same information, but the second one of each set caught your attention and you wanted to read more. That’s called a hook.

A hook shouldn’t be obvious but instead subtle like the fisherman who wraps and threads his worm around the hook, hiding it. This is true for a writer who should weave the words to covertly tempt the reader.

Like attempting to catch the big fish lurking in the depths of the water, the bait has to catch its attention or that distant, quick silver flick of another possible lure will quickly distract it and fish will disappear. In other words, the manuscript must grab the editor and readers in the first few sentences or paragraphs, or the next story on the stack will beckon and you’ll be left waiting for the line to jerk… and it will never come.

Do hooks work? Go back and re-read the first paragraph then you tell me.

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Diane Rapp
I agree! The first sentence, first paragraph, even the whole first chapter must hook the reader. Today, when a potential readers can download a sample, we must use our best skills to lure that fish, set the hook and reel them in.
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Julie Elizabeth Powell
Hooks can definitely work, but, I suppose it's subjective, all readers are different. For myself, I like to delve straight into the action, as a writer and reader.
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Scott Bury
You hooked me with this one!
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Lisa M. Collins
It is like sketching out what your plan to paint with the story.
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Onisha Ellis
For me as a reader it depends on my mood. Sometimes, I like to slip into a book, like tubing on a lazy river, enough action to keep me moving but not enough to make me anxious.
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Rebekah Lyn
So true! Finding that perfect opener is so vital. It's interesting the broad variety that can draw me in, though. It would be nice to find that magic bullet.
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James Prescott
Great point Bob, fantastic wisdom here. Thanks.
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