by Deren Hansen
As writers, the sort that trade words for money, our literary livelihood ultimately depends on how often we're read.
In order to catch as many readers as possible, reel them in, and leave
them in the bottom of the boat gasping for more story, we're admonished
to deploy a wide variety of hooks.
If you've had more
than passing exposure to the community of commercial writers, the first
thing that comes to mind when we say, "hook," is either a pirate captain
or a pithy one-liner, carefully designed to compel you to read more.
Story hooks often take the form of an improbable juxtaposition (like, "I
always hated warthogs until the day I turned into one,") that force the
reader to wonder how such a thing could be true.
are many other kinds of hooks: covers, tag lines, jacket copy, author
blurbs, reviews, book trailers, bookmarks, and so on. In fact, a good
story is filled with hooks, large and small, that pull the reader deeper
into the narrative.
Hooks are all well and good for
readers, but they pose a subtle but real danger to writers: we hear a
hook and instantly imagine the story we would write and then get jealous
because someone else has already written it.
of the more general grass-is-greener phenomenon. We look at other's
success and think how their assets would solve our problems, being
complete unaware of the problems they have that their assets can't solve
(e.g., you may be rich but in poor health).
appreciate and use hooks for what they are: ways to draw readers into
your story. And remember, writers, as you try not to be jealous of
either a book or its hooks, that you can't create the perfect hook
without the perfect book.