Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Nuances and Smacked-in-the-head Hooks

At my day job, I tend to sugar-coat things sometimes in order to soften the blow of what I’m telling someone. This says more about my confidence level than it does anything else, but anyway what I’ve found is that a lot of times, people don’t get what I’m saying. They don’t get the point. I’m using passive sentences rather than directives, because I don’t want to come off sounding dictatorial or arrogant. Cripes, can you believe that? This is because I’m constantly on the alert for showing and not telling.

But I forgot that people have mountains of e-mail a day and therefore you’d better get to the point very quickly in one—if you want to hold the reader’s attention. This is true in our novels today, too. It’s why no one is going to put up with five pages of description before the action starts. It’s why I start off my stories with a line that says what the instigating event is. The best example of this is Marian Keyes’ first novel, Watermelon. The first line is something along the lines of (I can’t exactly recall): “I had my first baby on the same day that my husband left me.” That’s the premise right there and years ago I picked this book up in a Dallas bookstore and read that line and went WOW (I had never heard of Marian Keyes before that). How much does THAT suck! I mean, holy crap, that’s about the worst thing I can picture happening, really. Lucky Marian, she nailed it with that one. I have never since seen such an attractive opening line as that one.

That first line taught me that you should be very straightforward in your plot and premise, and if possible, smack the reader in the head right away with your hook—assuming it’s a good hook. Not saying I always manage to do this, but it's a good rule of thumb.

1 comment:

CKHB said...

Talk about starting a novel at the moment of conflict!

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.