A few months back a writer pal of mine sent this video of author Erin Dealey’s The Writer’s Rap to me. If you’re not familiar take a look! I love this for so many reasons (you will be singing it all day), but it brings up one of those writing terms for me that sometimes feels a little sketchy (not unlike edgy) - having a hook.
What is “having a hook” exactly? The one sentence blurb that makes you want to run out and buy the book? The artfully done cover? The idea? Voice? The magic combination of it all?
I’ve been thinking about it a lot because the last two books I read didn’t “hook me in” immediately. I wasn’t sold on the opening paragraph or even the first page. I’m not even sure I was hooked after the first chapter. I committed myself to reading the books as a bit of an experiment. Could I stay with them, put myself in the writer’s hands and experience their vision?
The first book, Lynne Rae Perkins’ 2006 Newbery winner Criss Cross, did NOT hook me in from the first page. It intrigued me and the writing, in a word, was mouthwatering, but I didn’t have trouble putting it down. I did however look forward to picking it back up. For some reason it took me awhile to finish it. While reading, I couldn’t really answer the question “where is this going?” but I didn’t care because I truly fell in love with the voice. And I trusted this voice would take me to a place that would be satisfying. And it did. Can I tell you in one sentence what the book was about? No. I loved it anyway.
The other book, Tombstone Tea by Joanne Dahme also did not hook me from page one. I was intrigued, for sure, and the writing was superb, but I didn’t feel the need to tear through it. Again, I can’t tell you in one sentence what it was about, but I would certainly recommend it to a tween who enjoys reading paranormal stories.
Hook seems to be one of those agonizingly subjective terms. What hooks one reader, editor, or agent might not hook another. And while you might think a hook is great – teen vampire falls in love with clumsy, ordinary girl whose blood he can’t resist – there’s probably another person who could care less. And if you can’t put a hook into a one sentence sound byte – does that mean there is no hook at all? And while we’re at it, just how many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop?
Kidding aside SCBWI homies - I’d really like to know, what’s your definition of hook? And is it something you think about before, during or after you sit down to write?