Writing about a story’s hook, Karen Cogan stated in the closing paragraph of her post, “How to Set the Right Tone for Your Novel” on the Southern Writers: Suite T blog on December 19, 2018:
“The point is that your reader should never be misled for the sake of an enticing beginning. Certainly, you want an interesting opening. All you must do is to think carefully about your genre for the hook that draws readers into your novel.” For instance, a romance novel should not begin with the gory details of a murder. (Here’s the link to that blog post: https://southernwritersmagazine.blogspot.com/2018/12/how-to-set-right-tone-for-your-novel.html.)
If you’ve followed my blog for a few months, you know that I’m fascinated by the opening lines of novels. Although the “hook” can be more than just the opening line or paragraph, I can usually tell by the first sentence if I’m starting to read a book that I’ll finish.
Sometimes I’m fooled. Most of the time, I find that the opening sentence or paragraph is an invitation to a place or time I’ve never been – like a murder scene, the life of a person making a gut-wrenching decision, the colonial days in America, or perhaps the home front or battlefields of a great war.
As an aspiring novelist, I want to learn what makes a great hook and what doesn’t.
Today I’m highlighting the opening sentence in She Rides Shotgun, by Jordan Harper:
“His skin told his history in tattoos and knife scars.” ~ first sentence in She Rides Shotgun, by Jordan Harper
That hook describes Crazy Craig Hollington, president of the Aryan Steel prison gang. No surprise there. Chances are, this is not going to be a Sunday afternoon picnic kind of a story.
This isn’t typical of my reading choices, but I was drawn to it when I read that it won the 2018 Edgar Award for Best First Novel. I wrote the following about the book in my June 4, 2018 blog post, “Reading in May 2018” (see https://janetswritingblog.com/2018/06/04/reading-in-may-2018.)
“After reading the opening description of a white supremacist gang in a prison in Chapter 0 (yes, Chapter 0), I wasn’t sure I could hang in there to keep reading. I continued to read, and I was soon invested in 11-year-old Polly.
“Polly is kidnapped at school by the father she barely knows and is suddenly thrown into a life of crime. The book takes the reader along for a rollercoaster ride as Polly quickly becomes streetwise in order to survive.”
I think, “His skin told his history in tattoos and knife scars” was a good indication for what was to come in She Rides Shotgun.
Since my last blog post
I’ve been racing against the clock to try to read or listen to umpteen books before they have to return to the library or disappear from my Kindle. Too many books, too little time. Look for my blog posts on March 4 and 11, 2019 to see what I read this month.
Update on Decluttering
In case anyone out there is interested, I’m continuing to do battle with clutter. I’ve been inspired this year by Mliae’s blog: https://lifexperimentblog.com/2019/02/22/february-declutter-update/. She was kind enough to list my blog in her February 22, 2019 blog post, which prompted me to offer an update on my decluttering progress today.
Sometimes mail piles up. Opened, unopened, it doesn’t make a difference. I know the rule of thumb is to only touch a piece of paper once. Some days go well. I open the mail and immediately put it in the paper shredder, a file folder, or the recycle bin. Other days… not so much.
This month I’ve put 22 catalogs in the recycling bin. My goal is to get off as many catalog mailing lists as possible.
I’ve set aside 28 books to donate to the April 6 used book sale at my church. Granted, those 28 books are still piled on the hearth, but at least I know they’re getting new homes in April.
Until my next blog post
I hope you have a good book to read. I just finished listening to George Washington’s Secret Six: The Spy Ring That Saved the American Revolution, by Brian Kilmeade and Don Yaeger. I’m trying to finish reading In the Woods, by Tana French before it disappears from my Kindle on Thursday.
If you’re a writer, I hope you have quality writing time and that you’re good at writing hooks.
Thank you for reading my blog. You could have spent the last few minutes doing something else, but you chose to read my blog.
Don’t forget to look for my #TwoForTuesday blog post tomorrow when I’ll reveal two books that help me sleep at night. That’s the assignment, anyway. I’m still working on it. (Writing prompt provided by “Rae’s Reads and Reviews” blog post on January 8, 2019 (https://educatednegra.blog/2019/01/08/two-for-tuesday-prompts/comment-page-1/#comment-1646)
Let’s start a conversation
How much time or how many pages do you give a book before you give up on it and move to another book?