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Help with Hooks Please

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Hi! I am new here and really excited about finding this site. I am writing a novel and need some help with hooks, especially hooks that lead into the next chapter. I feel stuck even after looking on many sites online that gave examples and explanations. I would appreciate any help available. Thanks so much!

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Hey, @Chai6, welcome to the site. I'm going to beat Lynn to this and say that I hope you'll go over to the Meet and Greet section and introduce yourself so that we can give you a proper welcome :)


10 minutes ago, Chai6 said:

I am writing a novel and need some help with hooks, especially hooks that lead into the next chapter. I feel stuck even after looking on many sites online that gave examples and explanations.

I'm no expert myself, but here's my two cents worth: think of a hook as a question you raise in your reader's mind. It's something they don't yet know, and they want to find the answer. This question could be anything: "who is the man in the shadows?" "how will they climb out the hole without tools or rope?" "how will he get out of the cave without being killed by the hungry, fire-breathing dragon?" All of those questions are what drive the reader to carry on reading. 


Now, the trick is to get the reader asking the question without telling them what questing they should ask and without them realizing that they've asked the question. And in reality, a good hook (especially between chapters) gets set up well before the end of the scene. We won't care about the main character getting out of the cave and safely away from the dragon if we don't care about the character and if the dragon doesn't appear to be life threatening. And if we don't care about the people and the predicament they are in, then it really doesn't matter how great your hook is - we won't need to carry on reading. 


The best advice I can give you is to read. Take whatever novel you are reading now, read one scene, and then ask yourself "what question am I asking? What am I eager to discover in the next scene?" Then take the time to look for how that hook was set up. Look for how the author has been getting you to care. 


(by the way, the dragon and man trapped in a cave scenario is from the novel "The Oath" by Frank Peretti, in case you want to see how the man did get away from the dragon...) 

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Claire has given you good advise Chai.


I don't know which genre you write in, but a hook, is a hook. 


If you are a plotter,  then I would suggest you plan out your main milestones i.e the events or twists in your story. Look for where it sags/drifts.  That is a good indicator that you need to put a hook in.


Hope that helps.


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One of our own, RockyMtnGirl, has a great scene with a girl trapped in a cave with a dragon. Never thought I’d care about someone in that situation, hazardous though it certainly is. Just goes to show you what good character development will do for you!

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Let's brainstorm. I bet there are a lot of different hooks we have each seen in use. Here are a few I remember.


The Cutaway. Lord of the Rings: A Door slams in Sam's face right after Frodo is captured by orcs, cutting him off from pursuit. Then Tolkien cuts away to Aragorn, Gandalf and company hundreds of miles away. We don't find out what happened to Sam and Frodo for several chapters. 


The Cliffhanger. While the term originates with author Thiomas Hardy, it goes back much further. In the story of Scheherezade (Arabian Nights), she tells the Sultan stories each night and leaves off with a cliffhanger, so he won't kill her in the morning like the last princess. Each night she finishes the previous night's story, but starts a new one. This technique is a real life saver.


The Stack Push. Scheherezade used this one as well. In the middle of the story, one character tells another character a story. In the middle of that story, the character's character tells a story. You can go three or four levels deep with this, just like in Inception, the movie. Make sure you unwind them i reverse order, like popping the stack.


Sudden Death. The unexpected death of an important character.


Sudden Arrival. The sudden arrival of an unexpected person: the son or sister you didn't know you had. Like The Rock's movie, "Game Plan".


Unexpected Winfall. The protagonist gets a message about an inheritance, possibly unspecified with instructions to follow. Think about all the stories where someone inherits a haunted mansion, a magical item, an arcane book of secrets...


Traitor revealed. The heroine learns that her cat has been colluding with the Russians. Or was it the sidekick who discovered his rat really is a rat? (Poor Ron Weasley...)


Summons. The hero receives a summons to go on a journey for work to meet a new client. (That's how Dracula begins! Aren't you glad you're not his lawyer?)


Bad Planning. Good old scene versus sequel. The action is at a lull, and the heroine makes plans for how to best her rival. The hook is that you know her plan is doomed because the narrator let slip some details.


Unexplained Plans. Every action movie used to have the scene where the hero gathers his sidekicks around and says, "I have a plan..." Then they don't tell you the plan. You only get to see it unfold.


Waking up somewhere weird. In someone else's clothes. Maybe in someone else's body. (To Your Scattered Bodies Go is my favorite.


Dreams. This is a cliche. If you are a writer, you just can't resist the urge to start a scene with a dream, no matter how many agents draw their knives.


New Affection. I ended one scene with the wrong woman (not the heroine) being escorted by the hero on horseback. He has never been attracted to her, but she is his sister's best friend so he tolerates her. The other woman drifts off to sleep while the horse is walking and begins to talk in her sleep, revealing things that she never says when awake. Being nosy and seeing an opportunity to learn embarrassing things about her, he whispers to her to divulge something she has resisted taking about. She falls for it. The secret is a lament she once wrote and never shared. She begins to sing it in her sleep and the song begins to captivate his heart, as it reveals a depth to her soul that he never saw before.


That's my list. Anybody else want to chime in?




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On 8/7/2020 at 5:26 AM, Chai6 said:

hooks that lead into the next chapter

Welcome, @Chai6! You've gotten great advice already!


I'll just add in reference to this portion that mini-cliffhangers are great chapter endings, but don't do it at the end of every chapter, or you'll make your readers frustrated! But a chapter could introduce a new question or situation that makes the reader want to read on, too, without there being a true cliffhanger at the end. 

Edited by PenName
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I use resonance and teasers a lot. In my WIP, I have a chapter called The Robbery where my protag, a golem detective, first leaps into active on behalf of two elderly patrons of a small pharmacy, fighting two big robbers. This is how I ended that chapter.



And that’s how I came to have a superfluous standing account at the Apothecary of the Narrows and the undying friendship of Kayl and Emba Clover, two of the wealthiest retired fisher-folk in Rhonesgard.

It’s also how I came to the attention of Ghen Torna, one of the most powerful mob bosses in Rhonesgard, but that’s a story for another time.


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17 hours ago, PenName said:

I'll just add in reference to this portion that mini-cliffhangers are great chapter endings, but don't do it at the end of every chapter, or you'll make your readers frustrated!

Because of copyright issues, it is best not to use cliffhangers anymore.

Leave that to Cliff Notes... 😁

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