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Friday, October 15, 2010

Writing Tip of the Week - BAIT 'EM, HOOK 'EM, AND KEEP 'EM by Angelica Hart and Zi

Anglers know that live bait will entice a silvery scaled beauty to bite. As writers we're baiting literary hooks, hoping to persuade a few readers to jump into our books. The hook should not be just the first sentence of a story but should exist throughout the story. Here are a variety of great ways to catch and keep a reader, for unlike anglers, writers try to never, ever let a reader's attention get away.

THE PERFECT CAST

Make the first sentence outrageous or terrifying or amusing, anything but lame or boring. This is your lure. It must sparkle. It must be irresistible.

Example: First line from CHASING YESTERDAY

The Atlantic whispered to Elizabeth in endless, hypnotic gushes of harmonic, consistent sound, ageless sound.

Notice this sets the tone, a haunting quality. Plus, it immediately identifies the heroine and gives a glimpse into her mood as well as the story's location.

JIGGLE THE LURE

Tempt them further with the first paragraph, don't give a reader a chance to glance away. Offer something amiss, something that will give chills, conflict, confusion, mystery, but mostly have them questioning.

Example: First paragraph from KILLER DOLLS

Under the blanket of a cloudy night an older rusty white Dodge van bounced along the dirt boreens adjacent to the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal. Proceeding slowly, lights off, the driver was dressed in black, black hair jutting from a ski cap. The vehicle converged into a wooded area, it known for frequent fornication by lovers who had only a car and no money for a room. This evening, most likely because it was after 3 AM, it was vacant.

The reader will want to know why the driver is in an isolated area in the middle of the night, why are his lights off, why is he dressed in black? Inquiring readers want to know.

CHUM

To ensure they continue onward, keep your sentences clean, keep the tension sharp, remember active verbs, action words, and be aware of the writer's favorite mantra, show don't tell. You're chumming, leaving lush bits and pieces of bait that keep the reader questioning what is next.

Example from SNAKE DANCE

She would not, could not, allow herself to be caught, yet there was something inside, something that tugged at her, whispers from a time she chose to ignore that hinted at thrill, promised dark splendor.

This creates tension as well as empathy for the character. She is being hunted, and as much as she resists, there is also temptation. Which will she choose? Will she have a choice?

PRESURE BITE

The end of every chapter, and when possible each scene, there should be something to pull the reader along. Create a sense of urgency. The writer's enemy is the bookmark. You don't want a reader to find a convenient place to stop reading.

Example from THE GARROTE FACTOR

(A) She studied the contours of his chiseled lips, the searing depth of his gaze, and then back to his lips, slightly parted, inviting, tempting. All thought to resist fled. All sense hitched a ride with it. Without true volition, her lips crashed against his.

This is the perfect time for a chapter or a scene break. At which point, a writer should interject a totally different scene, one apart from the main characters.

This is part of the first paragraphs of the scene that followed:

(B) Though having knowledge of David Masters' reputed history the younger man appeared also to be in awe of him. That truth of David Masters should have easily challenged that awe with loathing because the man was evil.

Like a lure being trailed through the water, the reader will follow along, yearning to find out what happens after the kiss. At the same time, they begin to have an interest in the new characters. To keep the momentum going, scene (B) should end with a hook as well. See (C).

(C) “Join me or die. Let me be your guide. The world holds no place for a weak or contemptible person, a fool. Be one with me.”

“I can’t. I won’t.”

Pensive for one brief moment he nodded. “Rory,” called Masters. The man quickly entered the office. “Our friend here has asked to be this evenings’ entertainment.”

Now, the reader will want to know what happened to the young man. This is a technique that will keep a reader hankering for more, scene after scene, chapter after chapter.

To reiterate, the hook is something that should be a constant throughout the book, keep the reader guessing, keep them wanting more until the very last line, and if you intend a sequel, even that last line should be a hook.

Reel 'em in!

Angelica Hart and Zi

KILLER DOLLS

SNAKE DANCE

CHASING GRAVITAS

THE FABLE OF SIN-SIN-CINDERELLA Series

angelicahartandzi@yahoo.com

angelicahartandzi.com

Champagne Books: http://www.champagnebooks.com/

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