The Hook

When we teach writing, we teach about ‘the hook’.  The hook is the line that will hopefully drag readers into a story.  The hook is the sentence that creates such curiosity in an audience, that the simply must know more; they must read further for satisfaction.

I also teach kids that a hook can be an action sequence, a question or even a statement that enthralls us. Action sequences make us wonder how characters came to be in this situation, where they gained their survival skills and if there will be similar scenes later in the book.  Questions encourage us to seek answers within the rest of the story and statements cause us to ask questions of ourselves.

This kind of ‘statement hook’ recently captured my attention in a novel called The Unearthing.  I chose the book because its title is so similar to that of my own soon-to-be-released UnEarthed and I haven’t finished it yet, because I’ve been distracted…by the hook.

Actually, this sentence wasn’t positioned as the hook, but it was my hook (and doesn’t that return us to the issue of how texts are interpreted?), so now I’m in the weird situation of being both hooked on the book and distracted by my own thoughts.

The sentence?  Oh yes, here it is:

“But when they left behind their homeworlds and birth stars, they set out with hope of finding others, they set out with the hope that they were not alone in the vastness of the cosmos.”

Excellent sentence, well written and a great premise upon which to base a book about alien life.  It’s not so original in concept, after all, where would Star Trek be without this base, or Enders Game, or  for that matter, any other science fiction book based on alien life.

What makes this hook different is that it presumes to tell us, what was hoped…‘with the hope that they were not alone in the vastness of the cosmos.’…is that really what we hope?

When NASA talks about colonising Mars, when our telescopes and monitors are constantly seeking sound and vibration, is that what we’re hoping to discover, that we’re not alone?

Aren’t we really seeking to confirm the opposite, that we are indeed, alone.  Wouldn’t the human race like to know there is nothing to fear, no-one to find, that we are actually, the sole inhabitants of the entire universe.  Can we not then, proceed to treat our universe however we wish?

Recently scientists got all excited over the possibility of prototypes for bacterial life on Mars.  Were they excited because this might mean there could be others, or were they thrilled to think ‘we came from that and look how far we’ve progressed, if this is the best other planets have got, aren’t we the great sentient species!’ ?

All these questions, all these ideas, from just one good hook, but am I hooked on the book or the concept?  I’ll have to read further and let you know!

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~ by bloowillbooks on October 21, 2011.

2 Responses to “The Hook”

  1. I love crafting the hook. It’s like, my favorite part to write and make sure that it’s perfect, like sharpening a little fishing hook. I just imagine someone randomly picking up my book, flipping to the first page to see if they dig it, and coming on this hook and going “Crap. I can’t put this down! Guess I’ll buy it.”

    Ok, so I’m a dreamer, but yeah! Hooks!

    • Hi Eritta, I find the hook very difficult. Usually I’ve written the whole book, then I go back and contemplate how to create a hook that will given an inkling of the rest. It’s like inviting your reader out for a walk, the hook is the moment you take their hand in yours. It could mean anything, everything or nothing, depending entirely upon how you choose to do it. So I’m with you, they’re way cool…just a bit scary 🙂

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