Wednesday, April 21, 2010

How To Be A Hooker

You had to find out didn't you?

Admit it, there it was 'Hooker' and you wonder, really, am I going to tell you how to sell yourself?

Yes.

Dianna Love and Mary Buckham were quite clear that all of us who attended their Break Into Fiction: Power Writing Workshop on April 17, 2010, hosted by the Georgia Romance Writers, that we would all be Hookers. I and another writing buddy drove four hours to get to this lecture.

I am sure glad we did.

Dianna and Mary took from a variety of sources, including Donald Maas, to create their class on 'Hooking', discussing in depth a number of hooks and using current books as illustrations. Some hook types include:
  • Action or danger
  • A surprising situation
  • Warning or foreshadowing
  • Witty/shocking dialogue
  • A unique character
  • Overpowering emotion
  • Evocative description
  • Totally unexpected
  • Raising a direct question

You can answer all those points in one or two sentences, think about some of the books you have read, that first sentence or paragraph had some if not all of those elements that captivated you. In Joann's blog on "What the Hook gets you into a Book" on March 30, 2010 she made us identify what beginnings we liked in the story, what hooked us. (As you know, humor or creepy will catch my eye).

How about this: "Rats taste like chicken,"

This is an example of shocking dialogue, its evocative, and elicits a question. Don't you want to know who is saying it and why? I do. Unfortunately, I am going to have to write that later (I have the hook, but nothing to back it up). See how simple it is to use and how many points you cover in just four words?

It takes Agents and Editors less than a minute (a page or two) to become interested or bored by your story. Think about that. It is chilling. What keeps them reading? Hooks. In Nannette's blog "Up all Night" on April 11, 2010, she talked about that. What keeps you reading? What grips you strong enough to read all night long? It is hooks. These writers have mastered the art of analyzing a scene and sprinkling in hooks on each page. Just think of a book that is 300-400 plus pages, you know the ones you read in less than two days. Think of the effort it took to put in those hooks. Wow.

I want a story that grips you like that. I want the reader to turn the page. I want to be a "Hooker'. In order to 'strut my stuff' to query, enter contests and to pitch I too better master 'hooking'. This was the perfect workshop for me.

How about you? Do you want to be a Hooker? or What workshop has helped you the most in the last year?

28 comments:

Christine said...

That was a great workshop, Mary. I learned how to be a better hooker while I was there. Woot!

Jeanie said...

Mary, I love your opening line. How's this for a premise?

"Rats taste like chicken," he said, handing her the tin plate. He regarded her from the other side of the fire, his harsh features expressionless. "Squirrels are rats with fur, so they taste like chicken, too. Don't even think about trying that namby pamby girlie stuff on me. Eat up. We've moving out in less than an hour and you're going to need your strength. Hendrix and his goons are a couple hours behind us. We're going to have to hump it if we want to get out of these mountains alive."

Callie James said...

And that, Jeanie, is why you recently got The Call.

Nuff said.

Great blog, Mary.

Jeanie said...

Aw, Callie, you made me blush. I just love that line of Mary's. Too good to waste!

Angela said...

I think the way you started the post was a great hook in and of itself. Nothing like a little bit of shock value to command people's attention.

Thanks much for sharing what you got out of the workshop! Until my kids are a old enough to fend for themselves, I can't see myself able to attend any workshops or conferences that aren't in my immediate vicinity.(Seeing as I have a fresh one perpetually attached to me at the boob, that could be a very long time.) So, it's invaluable to me to glean what I can at a distance.

Some of the points you made reminded me a lot of an article out of the January 2010 issue of Writer's Digest: How To Make Your Novel A Page Turner – by Elizabeth Sims. In it, she stresses plotting from the gut by injecting HCM (Heart Clutching Moments). These can be active or passive: Love at first sight, A major moral lapse, Murder, A refusal of Grace, Nature gone wild, A change of heart, An act of depraved violence, Betrayal, Forgiveness, A revelation… Going back through and layering in more of these things, or expanding on existing HMCs, is a critical way to hold your reader’s interest. She was also clear about not creating Heart Clutching Moments in order to end a chapter. Ideally, you aim to end a chapter when you come to a naturally occurring HCM. (You’re not going to have an HMC for every chapter, that’s just nuts. You may have 5 or 10 of them interspersed. So in the spaces between them, they recommend breaking chapters at transitions: A turning point, A jump in time or place, A shift in point of view, The settling of the action, or A ramping up of the action.) How you handle these in transitioning from chapter to chapter will determine whether you can tantalize your reader thinking: ‘I’ll just read a few more pages…”

If we are to be successful, keeping the reader’s interest is key. One statistic that was mentioned has been forever burned into the back of my mind. “An alarming 40 percent of readers who put down a book before finishing it NEVER PICK IT UP AGAIN.” We have no choice but to be diligent in making sure our readers are itching to follow through to the end.

p.s.: I can't vouch for rats, but squirrels -do- taste like dark meat chicken. Particularly with a little BBQ sauce. >.>

Carla Swafford said...

Kelley St John did a workshop about hooks and that got me hooked on hooks. (Sorry, couldn't resist.)

Though I would like to mention as I've read on a couple of agents' blogs recently, do not start a book with a dream, driving/riding in a car or in the shower. Too many writers do it.

But I love great first liners in books. Those hooks get me to the cash register quick.

Callie James said...

Carla, I've read the same thing many times. Also, I've read not to start "in the middle" of a conversation and that finding a body in the first few pages is also getting tedious.

Interesting.

Jeanie said...

And also not to start a book at a funeral. Too cliche. Agents have said that in interviews I've read.

M.V.Freeman said...

Christine,
I think it was one of the best work shops. Now is the hard part..implementing what I learned.

Ah well...

M.V.Freeman said...

Jeanie,
You rock! That is outstanding, you gave it great suspense! Yep, I'm with Callie, and I think your call is well deserved. Woohoo!

Now you inspired me!

"Rat's taste like chicken,"she said, as she picked up the still form of a opossum to show the man who lay on his side, hands and feet tied with cords of hemp. "Now, these taste like fish if you're not careful to baste it." Her mouth curled into a closed lipped smile, her smooth skin, and large dark eyes a contrast to the blood on her hands. "Still, you'll get used to it." He never did.


I could not resist Jeanie...Thank you!

M.V.Freeman said...

Callie,
Thank you!, And I am glad you mentioned some of the things Editors/agents don't like.

Such as starting in the middle of conversation. I will have to remember that.

Drat, I think I may have done that....

M.V.Freeman said...

Angela,
I'm so glad you came by, how is that sweet baby? Getting any rest?You know there are some great workshops on line if you ever want to try that.

I love writers Digest..and I was looking at the points you mentioned--in many ways hooks all echo each other.

And yikes! 40% never finish if they put it down, definitely inspires getting those Heart Clutching moments...(I admit, sounds better than Hooking..LOL)

Now, you had me laughing about the squirrel! BBQ sauce is a must, I'm thinking.

M.V.Freeman said...

Carla,
ooh, those are good points to remember too. Dreams, driving...etc.

I do have my work cut out for me.
LOL

I'm with you, when I am uncertain of a book, I do open it and read a few pages to see if it will capture me.

Red Peril said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Angela said...

BBQ sauce covers over a multitude of sins. *sagely nod*

M.V.Freeman said...

Angela, you are hilarious!!!
That and hot sauce....

Gwen Hernandez said...

Great post, Mary. Thanks for the pointers. I was bummed that I couldn't attend that workshop. Hooks are something I definitely need to work on.

Louisa Cornell said...

Great post, Mary. I try to hook at the beginning and end of every chapter but it is HARD as heck sometimes.

Most of the workshops I do until Nationals are online workshops and most of them are on historical topics. Thank goodness Beau Monde has some great experts on tap. I've learned about crime and punishment in the Regency and all of the weapons with which a Regency gentleman might be familiar and even how to celebrate Christmas during the Regency.

The first line of the book I am currently working frantically to put the finishing touches on so I can get it to my agent starts with the line :

"What does one call a male whore?"


The book I recently started, His Charming Seductress, begins with the line :

No one said anything about snakes.

M.V.Freeman said...

Gwen,
I wish you could have been there, but hopefully in the future. I know there are lots of changes ahead of you this year. Its amazing how things work out.

I still have to work a lot on hooks....

M.V.Freeman said...

Louisa,

It is hard as heck and sometimes I just want to bang my head on the wall.

Thos opening lines! Oh, I love them, I want to read them both....such a hook. :-)

You are definitely gifted in that department.

Stern Rake Studio said...

Mary: Your title was a great hook that led me to read your post, even though I knew what you meant by "hooker." (Really. I did. I swear).

Great post!

Ted

M.V.Freeman said...

Ted,
Thanks so much for stopping by! So, that workshop worked, I got you "hooked" LOL! (All right, I have to work on my puns)

And thanks for the compliment, I hope you stop by again, you never know what we will talk about next.

M.V.

A man called Valance said...

Interesting stuff, Em. I'll try and remember this.

M.V.Freeman said...

Thanks for stopping by Mr. Valance,

I have to admit, you already have an amazing ability to to be able to capture an audience. I've been reading some of your blogs.

I appreciate the complement, don't be stranger!

Kate Diamond said...

I REALLY need to take a Mary Buckham workshop. She's a local author and did an all-day event for our local RWA chapter. She was great! Now I want to take an official class from her.

Stern Rake Studio said...

You're welcome M.V.! I became acquainted with Jeanie through PNWA (Pacific Northwest Writers Association) and Facebook. She told me about your group and I've enjoyed reading everyone's posts!

Ted

M.V.Freeman said...

Kate,
I'd highly encourage it. She has some excellent online courses as well. For some reason I do better working in a group than I do when I am muddling it through myself...LOL

M.V.

M.V.Freeman said...

Ted,
That is outstanding. Jeanie is an amazing person, I am glad she brought you here. I intend to drift on over to your blogs at some point...so when you least expect it..LOL

M.V.