Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Writing the Opening Sentence: Choose Your Hook

The Seven Hooks of openings for a book. I gotta admit, I had to look them up because I've never thought about categorizing the first sentence of my story. The first chapter is always the hardest for me--first one written and last one completed--so I attack the hook from a "put words on page, fix later" method. When I was a baby writer swimming around in various writers' groups, many members were obsessed with nailing the "perfect" opening line, usually at the cost of writing the rest of the book.  That's...that's not good. 

Write the book.
Write. The. Book. 

That's not to diminish the importance of a good hook. It's an encouragement to keep writing your story even if your hook is crappy. A compelling first sentence might not come to you until you're in the editing process. It's okay if it doesn't come to you at all as long as the rest of the paragraph/page pulls in the reader. Whatever you do, don't get derailed by the hook. Keep going.

For what it's worth, here's a list of hooks from my high fantasy and urban fantasy books and their associated category:

Larcout: Blood beings could be chattel or they could be char. [Hook = Why]

The Burned Spy: The antidote burned worse than the toxin. [Hook = Why]

The Plagued Spy: "Sneak, sneak, sneak, creepy guy. I see you," Bix sang to herself. [Hook = character]

The Captured Spy: The prickling of the skin. The brittle air raking across the nape. The weight of regard pressing against the body. Old spies knew to pay attention to these sensations. [Hook = character]

The Hanged Spy: Shadowy dancers twirled on a continuous loop over crystalline walls courtesy of a self-winding music box. [Hook = Setting]

The Exposed Spy: The stench of scorched plastic permeated the two-bedroom apartment on the second floor of a town house in Southeast Washington, DC, Primary Mid World. [Hook = Setting + Why]

The Shackled Spy: Snow flurries flirted with tourists bundled up against the biting winds rolling off the Potomac River. [Hook = Setting]

The Heralded Spy: War raged throughout the Mid Worlds. [Hook = Catastrophe Why]

As you can see, I use different types of hooks depending on the story. Some are more intriguing than others, but they each set up the story in a different way. Missing from my usage list are: The Goal hook, The Conflicting Emotions hook, and The Inherent Problem hook. Now that I know there are categories, maybe I'll make an effort to incorporate the unused ones in future books. Maybe. Got to write those stories first. 

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