Thursday, September 4, 2008
Hook'em Horns--or at Least Hook 'em Fast
Raised in the South, married to a Southerner and in possession of a male child in the South, I can’t help but hear about football. My son was in the process of watching Clemson get trounced by Alabama last Saturday when he couldn’t take it anymore, he
got up and left the room. We had friend over for dinner on Saturday and they had the
same reaction—they got disgusted and stopped watching at halftime.
It struck me that’s how I felt about a book I started this past week. I hate not finishing a book and I can actually recall the few books over my lifetime I haven’t finished—because they are so few. It’s sort of like cleaning my plate, I hate to not finish what I’ve
Started. So, in this blog, I want to discuss two things—what hooks me from the beginning and what loses me sometime soon after that.
And, I’m going to go in the opposite order—just because I was also taught to end on a positive note. Actually, I was taught “If you can’t say something, good, don’t say anything at all,” but I can’t seem to follow orders very well.
So, what I don’t like…one of the first books I can remember not finishing was Ulysses by James Joyce. I read on another blog that some people absolutely loved this book, but I couldn’t stand the lack of structure. I like a plot, and I appreciate proper grammar and so on. Another book in my rush to read the classics in high school that I didn’t finish was Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. Contrary to the popular theme of dark nowadays, I’ve had a long trend of preferring light. Or at least some light mixed in with the dark so the reader doesn’t suffocate. More recently, and I realize this may be seen as a hit against erotica but it’s more a comment about stories that compress the plot too much and have people fall into bed within a day and in everlasting love within a few hours after that. I lose interest if I can’t respect the characters in the morning.
Now, the hooks…in an online course I took recently (I moderated two and paid for two this summer), the instructor Lois Winston finally helped me get the hook ‘em in the first sentence concept. I’d heard this for years, been taught about the seven basic story lines, but still didn’t have a measuring stick for judging—does my first sentence have a hook? And voila, she simply boiled it down to the same idea of a hook anywhere in the book. Will your first sentence force the reader to read the next sentence?
Or will your reader get up off the couch and give your team up as a lost cause?