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The Sunday Squirrel: the night was dark

For my pacing class, we had to write opening lines based on some version of the sentence “The night was dark”. Each was supposed to include a minimum of the hooks listed in brackets. Below are my attempts. Which ones (if any) hooked you?

  • “I’m not your mother,” she said, rocking gently on the porch swing, her expression hidden in the dark shadows of the night.
    [Shocking or witty dialogue, The totally unexpected, Raising a direct question]
  • I ran from the house, just a shadow in the dark night, and vowed that no matter what happened, I’d die before I ever returned.
    [Action or danger, overpowering emotion]
  • The night plunged into darkness and the tilt-a-whirl ground to a halt, screeching like the souls of the dead.
    [A surprising situation, An evocative situation]
  • The hunchbacked elder shuffled out of the dark night into the tavern, silver medallions around his leathery neck clinking with each step, his voice strong as he wailed, “The Devil himself rides this way.”
    [Introducing a unique character, Warning or foreshadowing]

Off the hook

A writer's life is filled with hooks. The first scene, page, paragraph–heck, the first sentence–must grab the reader/editor if you want them to keep reading. But, don't forget the hook at the end of each chapter or scene, the hook in your query letter, synopsis, website blurb, back cover copy…

Well, I'm apparently hook-challenged. (I never was cut out for marketing.) I have a tendency to wrap up each scene and tie it off with a bow, instead of leaving the reader with a mystery or a situation they can't wait to read more about.

My CP recently read my entire manuscript (thank you, thank you!!), and so many of the scenes ended with the comment “Hook?” that I felt like I was reading Peter Pan. (Sorry, I couldn't resist.)  There were several scene-endings she did like, so I'm getting a feel for the difference, but in the heat of writing, I have a hard time figuring out what's an effective hook and what's not.

I'll have to see if I can find a good book to address this, because if I can master the art of the hook, it will improve so many areas of my writing. If you have any ideas for books to read, or guidelines for writing good hooks, I'd love to hear them.

How do you hook your readers?

The Daily Squirrel: Wool

The rough wool of the sweater made her arms itch, and she clenched her hands to control the urge to scratch. She hadn't worn a long-sleeved shirt underneath because it wasn't cold enough, but she regretted her decision to wear the lovely sweater. It accentuated the green of her eyes, and the moderate V-neck flattered her bosom without revealing too much, but no matter how good she looked, acting like a kid with chicken pox wasn't going to impress her date.