Are You Hooked Yet?
“As no man is born an artist, so no man is born an angler.” ~Izaak Walton, The Compleat Angler, or the Contemplative Man’s Recreation
I’m sitting here in relative silence tonight since my husband decided to take two of our daughters night fishing. As they sent me pictures we exchanged silly remarks and the sparks of “fishermen stories.” This led me to reflect on the similarities between fishing and writing.
They both begin with the hook. And the secret to the hook is the bait you put on it. Chances are a reader will pick your book up in a bookstore or a library, or perhaps even skim the preview online. One thing is certain, you have only seconds to reel them in…hook…line…and sinker. Is there a secret formula for baiting that hook? It depends on who you ask, every fisherman and every author will have a different answer.
Today we will talk about one of the ways to bait your hook.
The action is a go-to hook and for good reason. Action brings your reader right into the story and sets the tone. Drop your reader right into the meat of your character’s lives by opening with a well-paced scene that flows with the theme and arcs of your story. A sudden death of someone who will affect character development or a party where main characters meet for the first time. The options for action are endless and will reel in your reader.
The word “action” brings to mind conflict and friction. You define the context of this action and build a series of action and reaction that pulls your reader along.
The Divinci Code by Dan Brown is a great example of opening with action. From the very first line, we witness a death that sets the whole story into action (no pun intended) and fills the reader with questions.
The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas pulls us in with the arrival of a local ship. This introduction is a beautiful blend of both action and scene setting. You are drawn to the buzz and excitement of the crowd and then carried through the story from there.
The Last Oracle by James Rollins is a breathtaking example of starting with action. You are drawn in by the very first line: They had come to slay her. And you are dropped right into the Oracles story, her impending doom…her commitment and the destruction that is making it’s way right to her feet. (I was searching online for examples to go with this post and this is a book I have not read…yet. Amazon says it will be here on Monday. And that my friends, is a hooked reader.)
Be careful not to fall into the “show versus tell’ trap when writing your action. Pull your reader in and let them experience the beginning of your story. Engage their senses and make it impossible to put your book down. No one likes to be talked at, especially readers.
Be sure to strike a balance between mystery and intrigue. There is a difference. I once started a book where by the end of the third page I had no idea who I was reading about. I lost interest. Mystery is a lack of information, whereas intrigue is a desire for information.
Don’t use the first paragraph to dump in a full description of your main character. This is not the time. The hook is selling your story. Trickle in your character descriptions and let your reader fill in the gaps.
A good hook should stir curiosity in the reader and drive them towards answering their own questions. You have two lines, tops to make them choose your book. And remember, this is not *the* way to start any or every novel. Action is simply one tool in the writer’s toolbox and there are many others. The hook is arguably the most important aspect of your story. You may have chapter after chapter of amazing settings, engaging characters, and mind-bending plots but if you can’t get a reader past page one, it’s all for naught.
For more great advice on writing the perfect hook be sure to read Baiting the Hook by our own Stephanie Ayers.
I’d love to hear from our readers. In the comment section either leave us the title of a book that has a great action hook or share an action hook of your own. I look forward to reading your comments!
If reading this article brought value to your day, would you consider buying me a cup of coffee on Ko-Fi? Thank you!
Until next time, scribe happy and stay sassy!
Amanda Mabry is one of the founders of OWS and our Executive Marketing Director. If you haven’t already be sure to visit her Patreon page for a dark and stormy walk through the park of her imagination. New stories are posted monthly along with playlists, polls, and more. You can read her supernatural thriller, Next Best Seller, in Tales From Our Write Side and her poetry in Ambrosia both available on Amazon.