Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Shop Talk with Christina A.--The Hook

By: Christina Adams


It could've been the sound of a door slamming, but as I catapaulted over the wooden fence of Mr. Woodard's farm I knew it was a gun.

When you are writing a story or non-fiction piece, that first line is so important. Depending on the genre you are writing, the tone and theme of your piece, and even your own personality, all come into play for those first few words. (After all, you are the first one who has to like what you are writing, right?) You want to hook the reader, make them care and give them only enough information to help them understand what is happening, not too much or eyes could start to glaze over and lists of to-do's start to muddle the attention. But how do you choose your hook?

Often when I have a story idea I come up with the climax first, next who the main characters should be and then I decide where these characters would need to start to make the climax intense. However, knowing where I want to start the story and knowing the right words to make that happen aren't always the same thing. Some of my stories have had their beginnings rewritten several times, but the key is to not let future rewrites keep you from writing that first one. The blank page can be scary, a monster waiting for the writer to slay, although like a war-scarred knight, the more battles you have fought and won the more second nature your fighting will become.

Once the first line is written and the whole story is finished, it is good to go back to that first line. I have found that after I have experienced the rest of the story I have a better idea of what the story is about, what is important and what I really want to convey to the reader. I want the first line to taste like the rest of the book with a dab of the theme in the words I choose. Is the story dark? I drag my words through the night. Is the story heartwarming? I gather words that are soft and open their arms. But no matter what kinds of story it is I always hide a question, if possible more than one, that will draw the reader in.

This is the way I have discovered works for me. What have you found that works for you? Do you start with intrigue, shock, mood, emotion? What kind of openings do you love to read? Tell me about it and let's talk shop.


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Christina Adams said...

Sorry about those first two. If I could read other languages I'm sure I would have found that it was relevant to the topic.... Right?