Friday, June 04, 2010


Its no secret, I love Lost. When I first started watching (Season Two), I was immediately drawn to the story and never missed an episode. Over the past couple of seasons, I found myself asking what exactly it was about this show that I loved. Why did I faithfully watch it unlike any other?

To me, the answer was simple: the writers knew how to hook 'em. The scenes, I mean. Every week added another layer to the story and a new facet to a beloved character that created constant tension and intrigue. Long after an episode aired, the show made a viewer think about what happened and wonder what would happen next. By the time the season finale arrived, I was sad to see the story end and for the characters to say goodbye.

Though my writers' group has discussed "hooks" in the past, I don't think I quite grasped how effective subtle hooks worked until examining the layers of my favorite show. I began to realize and recognize that some of my favorite authors use this very technique to keep readers turning the page.

More aware now when I write, I've found some scenes easily lend themselves to creating a "hook" and increasing the underlying tension of the story. But I'm struggles with other scenes. What about you? Is this something you're conscious of when writing? If so, do you plot it out in advance or (like me) do you go back to fill in some holes?


Louisa Cornell said...

Great take on a truly important subject for writers. I've finally come to realize that the best way to keep a reader turning the pages is to hook 'em on the first page of each chapter and hook 'em on the last page as well. Of course you do actually have to have some substance in the middle, but those hooks are important. I am a pantser at heart, but I do make out a list of plot points when I start a new book. Then I try to create an arch so that I know which events will probably happen in which chapter. That makes it a bit easier to come up with a hook at the end of each chapter that will hopefully make the reader want to keep reading. Sometimes the actual hook doesn't come to me until I am halfway through a chapter, but I try to come up with something that would make ME want to keep reading.

Kat Jones said...

I admit it's taken me a bit to figure out the subtle hook... Of course it's easy to spot the obvious. I like your process Louisa; I going to try and see if it helps things roll a little smoothier for me.

Jeanie said...

Kat, you've heard me say a million times that beginnings are hard for me. The beginning of the book. The beginning of each scene. Sometimes, it is also difficult to decide when and where to END a chapter. Like you said, you want to hook'em and keep them turning the pages. And adding those all-important layers to a story keep your characters from seeming cookie cutter, though that's not easy to do either!

Come to think of it, nothing about this process is easy. Fun and exciting at times and painfully slow, but not easy. Great post!

Kat Jones said...

Thanks Jeanie! You're right, nothing about the process is 'easy'; but, then again, anything worth doing usually isn't.

JoAnn said...

I'm very much a hole-filler, Kat.

Although I never watched Lost (I know, I know -- one of the few in the known universe!) -- creating such great tension and hooking the reader is something I struggle with too.

Christine said...

What gets me is that hooks don't have to be HUGE, they just have to be the right hook for the scenes. I recently finished a sweet romance and sometimes the hooks were simple ones where my interest was hooked just enough to make me want to find out how these two characters would resolve their problem and match up.

Another thing I noticed is that the published books allow for way more repetition of ideas/themes/etc than contest judges do--things that make me go hmmm?

Kat Jones said...

Oh to be in your shoes JoAnn & watch Lost for the first time.... It's a wonderful (but often frustrating) story that makes you keep coming back for more. :)

I agree Christine that a few things I've read seem to use the more obvious hooks. And I think that's what I initially thought was necessary when writing. But I'm learning It's just not the case.

Cari Hislop said...

Christine, I really agree with you! I think hooks can be subtle and powerful in built up layers. As a pantser I don't try to write hooks anymore (I found that trying to plan anything made my writing too stiff - I didn't understand I was a pantser) but I find that if I let the characters get on with telling their story, the hooks appear. I might end up banging my head on a brick wall, but as I recently realized...all I have to do is turn my head and the wall is no longer an obstacle, it's a passage way. It's how we look at things that determines the journey. I'm sure to be found with traces of brick on my forehead many more times before I become tree food, but hopefully over time I'll remember faster to turn my head! Hopefully!

M.V.Freeman said...

I always try to put in a scene something that makes you want to find out why? Like why would she poison her great Aunt Millicent (Just kidding...LOL)

Sometimes I don't know the hooks until I go back to revise. I do much of what you do Louisa, I have a plan, but a loose one.

Remember, as a good friend once told me: Its ALL fixable.