We’ve all heard about the importance of writing a “good hook,” one to get your reader invested in your story. Typically, the concept of the hook is relegated to the first chapter/first few pages of your book (or even just the first line). However, hooks need to be pervasive in your book. You don’t just want readers getting hooked on page 1 — or line 1, for that matter. You want to hook them at the end of each chapter, forcing them to turn the page and start reading the next one. Think of fishing: you don’t just drop one hook into the water, hoping the fish will jump into your boat, you drop many — well, perhaps only one, but you do it over and over and over again.
A few months ago, I wrote about the saggy middle, and how my saggy middle is at the beginning. I’ve been spending the last several weeks working on re-writing that saggy beginning and just today, put together a sequence of actions for Act 1, and that’s when the whole hook thing hit me (please don’t ask me why it took me so long — I’m still muddling over that one).
Before today, I would end a scene at the end of the scene. I know that sounds dumb, but bear with me…I’ll use an example.
Susannah is at Hyde Park to meet with one of her marriage-in-name-only candidates for a ride around the park. The gentleman shows up, helps Susannah into the carriage, then, instead of getting in, holds the horses’ head while Nate climbs in the other side (it was Nate’s idea — pretty good, eh?). They ride around the park; she’s mad, he’s lecturing her about the creeps she’s leading on, they run into his mom/sisters, who clearly want this match to actually happen (much to both Nate and Susannah’s embarrassment). Susannah says she’s had enough and tells Nate to take her home.
THIS IS WHERE I WOULD NORMALLY HAVE ENDED THIS SCENE! Kind of a boring end, eh?
However, I decided to pull a little of the next scene into this one and end the scene on a bit of a cliffhanger.
Nate takes Susannah home, walks her up the stairs, and she opens the door and enters. She turns around to close it, and *surprise* Nate has stuck his foot in the door to keep it open, then comes in right behind her.
THIS IS WHERE I END THE SCENE NOW.
What I’m hoping (fingers crossed!) is that when my readers get to the end of that scene, they’re compelled to keep reading, because they want to know what Susannah is going to do next! (And Nate, for that matter — remember, he’s been tasked with courting Susannah to get into her Uncle’s house, and now he’s in for the first time!).
When I think about the books I read, I realize that authors do this a lot (they must, or why would I stay up until 2 a.m. reading a book?). However, it’s never registered with me as something intentional that they do. In fact, I’ve done this a couple times in later scenes, but I didn’t think about doing it — it just happened.
So, is this something you intentionally do? Unintentionally? What other devices have you used to hook a reader and keep them reading?