The term “hook” feels suspect, doesn’t it? It brings the eager car salesman to mind…we want the car, and the salesman makes that possible, but we sure don’t want to be “sold.” That might be wrong thinking, though. The hook is actually part of the story the reader needs, that inner snag we all feel when we’re hunting a good read. It’s intuitively and creatively placed, a practical part of craft.
Say you’ve spent years building and polishing a novel. It’s a strong story that’ll give your reader hours of entertainment, and you know it. But how do you let the reader know it within the first page or two–all you have, really, before your reader hunts on, browsing for an excellent read?
Often a writer plunges the reader into the meat of a story, driving the action forward, showing the story. Good. But what if you want to start a little more slowly and establish facets of your characters first, making them real, giving them depth? What if you want to establish what psychologist Ronda Kiefer calls “connection, bond, transference, alliance, identification, attunement or hook…”
Strong foreshadowing is one way to let your reader know that something momentous will happen soon. That the journey will take them there.
In Blue Rope, the tale of a failing relationship is told against the dark backdrop of psychopathic killings in a small town. A cross-section of the killer’s thoughts inserted before the first chapter foreshadows a coming event. It prepares the reader who is then dropped into Dee’s work day and a surprise visit from Perry Birch, the colleague of her husband she’s deeply attracted to:
She’ll be in her backyard deadheading flowers right now, or pulling weeds, a cup of coffee on the patio table. That’s where she’s been every morning for the last eight days. That’s her routine. The blue rope next to me holds light, like it’s picked up the toughest part of the sunshine. It’s ready, and my hands are ready. They know what’ll come next–the one-minute work. Sara Herrington. The one with the crazy hats. Sixty seconds to purple.