Writers often hear the old dogs mutter after a swig of their whisky that ‘you have to hook them real good and let them squirm, trying to pull free’. It should be a swift, merciless action with no margin for error, hidden like a sword in an umbrella, and it should be dealt at the very first sentence. Everybody in the business emphasize on stunning the reader the very first page, because after all, a book is an investment of as much money as it is of time. The agent, editor and reader have to be persuaded you are worth their time and money. So, you hook ’em real good.
But what exactly is the hook? How do people within the industry perceive it as opposed to the reviewers and readers in general? Is the hook all that important as it was suggested in a post a month ago [I struggle to remember where this was posted]? I was curious and decided to ask the people on Twitter. These are the results:
@nicolamorgan: Here's you go: "A good hook is a fluorescent life-jacket for your book - without one, no one will see it before it sinks." ~ Talented author Nicola Morgan delivers the dictionary definition, though with more flare. This is the rule of thumb. It’s a must-have, though it is not exactly explained what it is. In 140 characters, it is no surprise. This suffices.
The hook can also mean concrete things:
@MihaiDarkWolf: Sparkling conversation or a good action starting scene. ~ Reviewer and blogger Mihai Adascalitei enjoys the dynamic entry.
@BookChickCity: Either a well written fast-paced action scene or great dialogue. ~ Reviewer and blogger Carolyn tends towards the same need for adrenaline.
However, some readers, if unsure what does it for them, know what certainly won’t entice them:
@BookChickCity What doesn't is a dream sequence, so cliche and over done!
@ALRutter Can tell you what doesn't! Either a weather report or a city description - anything where there are blocks of prose
From here on the hook tends to morph into something less tangible, less of a situation that the writer knows it works, but something to do with the big construction blocks of the novel:
@GuyAdamsAuthor For me it's all about voice. Not that I don't like action upfront or a book that starts with a bang.
@nextread a good voice doing something interesting.... but it's different for all authors.
@Hagelrat as a reader character, if I like the voice in the first few pages you got me.
@jrobertking I'm weird, but what hooks me in a book is a great voice. Tolkien had it, and I followed him to Mordor and back.
Characters and Plot
@alebodden11 I like it when the characters have strong personalities, and also when the language flows along with the plot =)
@ALRutter I actually like it when the main characters is confused and we're confused right along with them (A Madness of Angels)
@MihaiDarkWolf Plot & characters. If none of them catches my attention, most probably I will have a hard time reading the book.
@ALRutter The characters. If I don't like the characters, I can't read the book.
To other qualities:
@Weirdmage Any book that has a story that keeps me reading when I should go to bed.-Total experience more than any particular hook.
@SamSykesSwears A good story is a good story, whether it's gritty, high or low fantasy. Hooks are just icing.
@MarkCN I look for someone who can write an above average sentence, and then who has an imagination.
@niallalot Wit. Inventiveness. Character. All three and I'm in love. One will do in a cinch.
The results are varied as are the people and their involvement with literature. Some are just fans, who can’t keep their noses away from a book. Others are reviewers. Third are authors. There is no way to be certain what you need as a hook, because your work will appear in front of many people. I gather that agents and editors will demand to see potential right at the start and I gather that your book has to hold the casual customer browsing through the bookstore. What is most optimistic however is that most book lovers are patient enough to let a book grow on them.