April 9, 2013 by KWills
Readers are fickle beasts, and publishers are even worse. You know that you have written a searing tale of high adventure, tragedy and romance. You know that this will be the next best seller; a story that will linger in the heart long after the last page. You know that, after a few chapters of necessary scene-setting, it is a real page-turner. You know all this – but your reader doesn’t. A reader starts on page one, and without a hook, will probably not bother with page two.
It can be very hard to look objectively at your own work and imagine people who genuinely don’t care about it, but that is key to writing a good hook. You know that inner critic and editor that got locked up for the duration of the first draft? Now that draft is written1, it is time to unlock the cage. Bring out your own worst critic and let it loose on your opening sentence. Keep at it until you (and your critic) are satisfied with the result.
I’m still working on the opening for “The History of Haplow House”. I have narrowed it down to two versions. Which do you prefer?
Warren Haverton settled back uncomfortably in the carriage and watched the unfamiliar landscape passing by. It was the tail end of summer; all the green and growing things that had seemed so young and eager in the Spring now looked weary and ready to die. The countryside had a dull, solemn look, as if it, too, were in mourning.
Warren Haverton watched the unfamiliar landscape passing by the carriage window. It was the end of summer, and the countryside looked grey and tired, as if it too were in mourning.
That’s what I’ve got so far. For more on how to write hooks, see:
1. Yes, it is. Never stress about the hook in the first draft. That’s what editing is for.↩