Tuesday, February 28, 2006

...And Now, Hooking like a Pro

I love the double entendre of that, don't you? Plus, it serves as a fairly good example of how to write an effective opening line, otherwise known as a "hook."

The idea of a hook that it grabs your reader's attention, draws them in, and (fingers crossed) keeps them rapt until the words THE END. Why is it important to do this? Why not just start at the beginning and go?

The reason is because the competition is enormous.

I was walking through the Washington County Library on my way to class last Wednesday and I was struck by the fact that each one of the books I passed represented a person, and not just any person, but a professional writer just like me. Each one of those people managed to jump through the same hoops I did, and, in so many ways, beat the odds and got their book in print.

For every book on the shelf, I imagine there must be hundreds, if perhaps not thousands, of writers who didn’t… or, more positively, haven't YET.

If you're writing for the short story market, you have the same kind of pressure. Asimov's receives something like a thousand submissions a month. I think they run a dozen or more stories, plus you have to factor in all the bigger names than you (and me) who are also taking up valuable real estate.

So, how do you stand out in a crowd like that?

Like a 'ho, ya gotta have a good come-on.

That's a sickeningly apt metaphor, since the opening is a kind of advertisement, a way of letting people know what kind of story they're getting themselves in for. If your opening is dark and serious, then the reader will expect that what follows is also dark and serious.

No comments: