The Hook

I had a friend who went to be a songwriter in Nashville, and he was always talking about the hook, I guess because a song, played on the old-timey radio, only had a moment to catch the interest of the listener before being spun away. For writers today, gone are the days when someone would pick up a book from a shelf, return to a comfy chair, open it and thumb through the first few pages, settling down for the night. I personally hope those days come back, and maybe they will, but right now we have to deal with “the hook.”

When thinking of “the hook,” think less about what the hook is and think more about what it is meant to do. Essentially, it is meant to grab the reader and engage the brain. In other words, we have to make those synapses flash—we want to create, in short order, emotional and intellectual excitement. It is the easiest thing in the world to put down our book—and if you don’t believe me consider for a moment all the books you’ve put down and all the books you’ve never picked up.

Some writers confuse mystery and obfuscation. The reader does not read to find out what IS happening. They read to find out what WILL happen. The beginning of our book is no time for confusion, ambiguity, unclear thinking—or telling. Consider the last time someone told you what to do, what to think. What did your brain do? I know mine shuts down—quickly. So, we have to engage that brain. We want that brain to enter into the story, immerse itself in the narrative consciousness we’ve created, and thirst for the knowledge that is just around the corner. We’ll call this “narrative momentum.” We want total clarity and to create this desire to turn the page. I had a great teacher once who called this the “forward lean.”