During the final rewrite phase of my novel, Misfit McCabe, leading up to publication, I worked with a class of young readers to preview the manuscript and provide feedback. This is the eighth in a series of articles about fiction writing aimed at young writers. This article discusses what is meant by starting a story with a hook.
What is the most important part of your story? What can take the longest time to get right?
When writing a story, you have to capture your audience (the reader) so that they want to continue reading the story after the first few paragraphs. It is said that for movies, the screenwriter/director has 10 minutes to get you interested in the story that is going on, or they will lose you. If you think about it, how many times have you started to watch something and within the first 10 minutes you get bored and then turn it off. That happens to me all the time. Or the reverse is true , you're getting ready to turn something off and you figure you can watch just the first few minutes of a show, and within the first 10 minutes you're hooked and you end up watching the whole show.
It works the same way with writing a story. Description is very important to story writing because you want your reader to be able to visualize what is happening throughout the story. But, does that mean that you have to start off by describing the setting of the story in great detail? Or, should you start off with something that is action packed? In my writing class, I learned that the beginning of your story needs a hook. You want to have a quick start to a story to draw your reader in and after they have read through the first few pages and been "hooked", then you can slow the pace down a little bit and start throwing in some description.
With Misfit McCabe, I started off with Katie doing something she shouldn't have been doing, and she ended up in trouble right away, and it was filled with action. Through the action, you are getting a glimpse of who Katie is, and it puts in your mind the question "What happens next?" Your job at the beginning of any story is to get the reader to turn the page. It is always a good idea to lead with action.
Are there great books which start off slowly with a great deal of description? Yes, some of the best books ever written start off slowly with lots of descriptive phrases. They were written, for the most part, in a time in history which was slower than our current fast paced world. For today's reader a more action packed start is recommended. Plus, as a writer, I am only trying to tell a story, not write the greatest book ever written.
LK Gardner-Griffie is the author of young adult novel Misfit McCabe which is available now through Lulu.com , Barnes and Noble, and Amazon.com in paperback and as a Kindle edition at Amazon.com.
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