Tuesday, March 30, 2010

What the hook gets you in a book?

In the writing world, close to a hillion-jillion words have been devoted to that simple-yet-complicated term, the hook. In its most basic form, it's whatever gets you "in the book." And most often, it's the first sentence or first paragraph or first couple of paragraphs.

I have many favorite hooks, but this one is near the top of my list (from Northern Lights, by Nora Roberts):

"Strapped into the quivering soup can laughingly called a plane, bouncing his way on the pummeling air through the stingy window of light that was winter, through the gaps and breaks in snow-sheathed mountains toward a town called Lunacy, Ignatious Burke had an epiphany.

He wasn't nearly as prepared to die as he'd believed."

I was pulled right into this book with the words "Strapped into a quivering soup can..."

What's your favorite hook?


Callie James said...

Easy-peasy question! One of the best hooks I’ve ever heard is from our very own Jennifer Echol’s book, “GOING TOO FAR.” (Ring a bell? Amazing and sensational RITA finalist? Hello?)

Here it is:

“That’s the worst idea I ever heard,” I told Eric. Then I took another sip of beer and swallowed. “Let’s do it.”

Even if you don’t know this is a young adult (and knowing a teen is saying this immediately made my eyes bulge with curiosity), that’s a perfect first paragraph if I’ve ever seen one.

Love it. I was hooked. Immediately. Now for anyone who hasn't, go buy the book. :)

JoAnn said...

Yes! Callie, I love that one too.

Louisa Cornell said...

Great hook there, Callie! LOVE Jennifer's books and so does my niece! Any wonder Jennifer is up for a Rita?!

One of my favorite hooks is from Mary Janice Davidson's Unwed and Undead.

"The day I died started out bad and got worse in a hurry."

I mean, you HAVE to know what happens next!

Carla Swafford said...

Oh, I have so many favorites but the most recent one I read that had a great beginning hook was Susan Elizabeth Phillips's IT HAD TO BE YOU. Love that book!
Phoebe Somerville outraged everyone by bringing a French poodle and a Hungarian lover to her father's funeral.
I can promise you it got even crazier from there. So funny!

Discussing hooks is one of my all time favorite things to talk about. Great blog, JoAnn.

Heather said...

Call me a sucker, I love the opening of Rebecca - "Last night I dreamt I went to Manderly again." I hold a grudge against the rest of the book since it was required reading in high school (that was the surest way to curse my enjoyment of any book), but that opening line always stuck with me.

I now must go buy "Going too Far"

M.V.Freeman said...

Hmmmmm. This is HARD!!!
Hold on, let me dig a bit---

"When the blood fever rises, it is the Enforcer who names the time, the place, and the prey."--Laws of the Blood: The Hunt by Susan Sizemore

And now you know why I like to write dark....:-)

Sometimes though the hook isn't right away, its a few paragraphs in. I'm always ready to push through a few pages...if you haven't gotten me by the beginning of the second chapter...well, I may just have to put it down. :-)

JoAnn said...

Louisa -- that's a great one!

JoAnn said...

Carla -- Hilarious! (And I love stories that start at funerals. That's a time when emotions are right on the surface and drama usually takes the day.)

JoAnn said...

Heather -- one of my favorites too. Powerful words.

JoAnn said...

Mary -- wow. Sucks you right in. Awesome!

Thanks, everyone, for posting. I love the fact that all these are so different. It really highlights how unique writers' voices are.

Jeanie said...

Resident nerd checking in here with two of her favorite openings:

"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife."


And one of my favorites from childhood:

"In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort."

THE HOBBIT, by J.R.R. Tolkien.

Yes, I'm afraid I'm one of THOSE. I still remember finding THE HOBBIT in my school library, opening the book and getting sucked right in.

Love me some HARRY POTTER, too. That chick is a freaking genius.


JoAnn said...

Jeanie -- these are both amazing. I had totally forgotten The Hobbit. I mean, how could you NOT be hooked after reading "In a hole in the ground, there lived a hobbit." And I love the construction of that sentence.

prashant said...

One of my favorite hooks is from Mary Janice Davidson's Unwed and Undead.
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