I’m a Hooker

Or so I’ve been told.  No, it doesn’t mean I hang out on seedy street corners dressed in tight leather pants and a muscle shirt, so get that mental image out of your head right now!  What it means is that I supposedly write excellent hook lines to close my scenes and chapters with.

My definition of a hook line is a bit broader than the one you typically hear, which involves a line that will hook someone into reading your novel.  I utilize the phase to explain lines that keep them reading.  I’ve already discussed pacing and momentum in our writing before (see The Scooter Method of Pacing), but I didn’t mention specific techniques other than using an illustration from my own manuscript.  One of my favorite and most effective means of maintaining momentum when transitioning between chapters is the hook line.  Think of them as teasers...on steroids. 

Most readers use chapter or scene breaks as a stopping point, choosing to put the book down and move onto other tasks.  Your goal here as a writer is two-fold:  1) to keep your reader engaged for as long as possible by influencing them to delve into yet another section, and 2) make the length of time the book sits unattended, short.  If they must put the book down, then you want them hurrying back as soon as possible to fall under its spell once more.  One way to accomplish this is through lean and compelling prose.  There is no substitute for good writing.  But another way to achieve your goal is by utilizing great hooks.   

I come up with hook lines when I’m still in the outlining phase of my books.  It can directly relate to how you structure chapters, what information you dole out and how much you hold back.  A hook line can be a light bulb event, where your reader is provided some key information explaining unanswered questions.  It can be a cliffhanger, where a character is left in peril.  But some of the best hook lines involve foreshadowing, where the reader is tantalized with possible future developments (usually of the ominous variety).  Myself, I’m an equal opportunity hooker.

Can you overuse hook lines?  Sure, but usually because excessiveness leads to lazy writing and terrible hooks.  A well conceived, perfectly executed hook line doesn’t leave a bad taste in our mouth (eyes?) when we read it. 

I’ll leave you with a quote from Stellan Skarsgard, a prominent actor talking about one of our most prominent writers today.  "I think Dan Brown (The Da Vinci Code) is a terribly bad writer, but he has cliffhangers after every chapter which makes you continue reading. It's like eating peanuts at a bar. You don't like them, but you keep on eating them anyway," he told Swedish broadcaster SVT.  Surprisingly, Mr. Skarsgard starred in the film version of Dan Brown’s Angels & Demons.

If being a hooker allows me to see even a fraction of that type of success, then sign me up! 

PS.  The day my book is published…I promise to take a picture of myself wearing those leather pants and muscle shirt.

51 comments

  1. Good hookers - without leather pants - always keep me reading them even if it's otherwise crap, I'm just like Stellan I guess.

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  2. Oh you have just made one helluva' promise because I will hold you to that picture.

    I try to keep hooks at the ends of odd numbered chapters and the beginnings of even numbers. I figure the only reason to stop reading a book is to go to the bathroom. I haven't been able to 'double hook' yet. I crochet, not knit.

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  3. Interesting. Never heard of hook lines. Well first lines are stunningly hilarious.

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  4. That's a disturbing mental image ... ;) I love writing hook lines, it's probably my favorite part of each chapter! (Is that sad?)

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  5. I probably don't use hook lines as often as I should.
    And is it okay if I skip that photo?

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  6. DL, you do realize you WILL get published and that means you WILL have to post a pic in the leather pants and muscle tee!!! :) Hooks are so important! It's great to be known for something like that!

    BTW: The title of your post made me laugh out loud! I had to read more! I guessed that means you hooked me!!! ;)

    xoxo -- Hilary

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  7. You've made some excellent points here. I will now be thinking of hook lines at chapter's end. Thanks!

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  8. We are SOOOO going to hold you to the leather pants picture when you're published. You ought to use it as your author photo on the book flap. hahahaha

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  9. I love hooks! Pretty impressive that you figure yours out during outlining. Then again, I don't outline. LOL

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  10. Well said sir. I've always tried to use a hook to end a chapter and make it relevant. I once got called out on AW by someone accusing me of trying to make the reader turn the page. Well, yeah.

    Funny thing here, I have that exact outfit hanging in my closet wih the tags still on.

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  11. Congrats on being such a great hooker!!

    Well, you know what I mean...

    I hope to become as great a hooker as you are one day!

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  12. I love hookers! I can't wait to see you in your leather pants.

    I like books that leave you wanting to know what happens next.

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  13. I thought I saw someone who looks suspiciously like you on Pretty Woman...

    Effective hook lines can be difficult to come up with, but I find that for me a lot of it just shows up naturally with the way the scene is going. And then I'm just left to hope they'll work. xD

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  14. Haha my betas always yell at me at the end of chapters because I LOVE hooks :) They love it and hate it too.

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  15. I love hookers - lol. Hook lines are so important... I can't believe you figure them out when you're at the outlining stage -- pretty impressive.

    Can't wait to see that picture you're talking about.

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  16. Okay thanks, I didn't even think about that picture until you mentioned it and now I insist that you dress up in that outfit for your first book's author picture. I'm not a great hooker (Mom should be so happy). I tend to start my stories too slow but am learning how to make the conflict more appealing so the reader can get involved in the book right away!

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  17. Dude, we have it in writing.

    Holding you to it.

    Lola will issue a big can of whoop-ass if you don't live up to your promise. No half-assed version will do. Full-on man-hooker attire is expected.

    ;)

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  18. Matt ~ My jaw dropped after reading the AW comment. Are you kidding me???

    Amparo ~ Hookers united!! Maybe we should for a union?! :)

    Julie ~ That is a promise I will gladly keep!!

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  19. Hooking was probably not my strong suit.

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  20. eh, and I was so excited and intrigued by the tittle of the post... :))))

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  21. I like this... I typically try to start each chapter w/a lede (being a journalist and all), but this sounds like a great technique, also... I wonder if one could do both. That might not work. Perhaps worth a try to see~

    good stuff!

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  22. I just finished beta reading for a friend and she has fabulous hook lines! I stayed up way too late because I couldn't stop reading until the end.

    Great points - thanks!

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  23. Yeah, but I really enjoyed the visual of you as a hooker DL. Hmm, let me roll with this imagery a moment . .

    I do agree that hook lines are one of your strengths. Your excerpts suck me in instantly, keep me reading, and I wouldn't mind missing a potty break (I've been known to take the book with me).

    BTW: When do we get another excerpt? I'm still dreaming about the bar fight scene.

    ......dhole

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  24. OK, MUST SEE PICTURE!!! Really. Now. :-)

    Well said, friend. Great hooks always get me. Best pacing tool I know.

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  25. I gotta admit, just your title hooked me. And you might regret that promise later :)

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  26. NaTahsha ~ You see how well they work! :) And there will be no regret...because the picture will mean a dream has come true.

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  27. Definitely not what I expected upon reading the title, but good stuff. The Stellan Skaarsgard point was interesting. It gets me thinking that if a reader can be captivated by a book he openly admits to as being poorly written, imagine what one can do with cleverly-used hooks in a well-written tome!

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  28. ...interesting take from Skarsgard, especially considering he was in the movie. Perhaps Mr. Brown already knew of this quote and requested Skarsgard's presence in the film simply for this reason...the twisted mind of us writers, and the games we play...
    Great post...glad I stopped by:)

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  29. It's a great idea to make sure that every natural break point in your novel has a hook, just as long as the hook is an unforced, contextually appropriate one. I'll add this to my checklist for reviewing final drafts.

    Thanks for the great tip!

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  30. Even with the promise of a ridiculous picture when you get published this is actually a serious post for me. Because I and my CP partners provide a free critique service we get quite a few submissions most of which start with chapter 1, and the occasional short story. Countless times, not even on fingers and toes, have we all talked about the importance of a good hook. Do I want to hang out with your MC? Do I want to keep reading? So the fact that you masterd hookin' is huge and I applaud you on being able to keep a reader, well, reading ;)
    Is there any weakness in your writing?!?!?! :P
    And although the picture kinda weirds me out I hope we can all hold you to that promise because you'll be livin' the dream!

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  31. You had me hooked with "I'm a hooker"....so I guess you are good. ;)

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  32. Dan Brown is a master of cliffhangers. It does become a bit tiresome after awhile though!

    Love your post title!

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  33. Wow, I've never been so hooked to read a blog post, either. Can't wait to read your book!

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  34. You are SO getting into those leather pants! LOL!

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  35. ooooh i wish i was a hooker. That's one of the best freebies i've ever had.
    tho i suppose if it were my freebie, i'f have to give up my ease and happy skills at dialogue.

    also, don't think we'll forget about the leather pants getup when you're book is pubbed.

    because we won't...

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  36. j.m. ~ I know...more like a bait & switch than a hook, but when you think about it some great hook lines are actually just that. :)

    Elliot ~ I'm glad you stopped by as well. I wondered that same thing about Skarsgard's casting in the second film. Hmmmmmm?

    Mohamed ~ They absolutely cannot be forced. If they are, he reader will feel overtly manipulated and could react badly.

    Erica ~ Believe me...there is plenty of weakness in my writing!! Weirding you out will be icing on top of the cake!! :)

    Sierra ~ As we say in the south...AINT SKAIRT!

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  37. I'm a huge fan of a good hook at the end of a chapter/transition or even at the end of a book (provided I don't have to wait toooo long for the next book).

    I really enjoy trying to create a compelling hook that keeps readers coming back for more or compels them to keep reading beyond the chapter break even when they promised themself "I'll stop after this chapter."

    Though I do agree that it can be hard to get them right and not come off as gimmicky.

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  38. Man, I take a little unplug break and look what I almost missed??? Because you know I will hold you to that whole "when your published photo", right? RIGHT!

    PS-I too love hook lines in books I'm reading. Well, I guess it's a love/hate relationship when I stay up too late, but that's the point, isn't it? As for writing, I use them occasionally but not frequently...

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  39. I’m glad you clarified the hooker comment!

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  40. I always suspected this of you. Not the "hooker" part, but the tight leather pants wearing part. Haha. :)

    I love writing hooks, but they usually take me a bit to come up with.

    I just wanted to let you know that I changed blog domains, so my new domain name is: www.kim-franklin.com

    Have a great day!!

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  41. Okie ~ That is the trick...to not come off as gimicky. I'd rather just end the scene dry than do that.

    Kristi ~ I'm totally up for it, because it will mean my dream has come true!! :)

    Holly ~ Disappointed?? :)

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  42. Great post as usual. And I look forward to the hooker photo. I hope you're getting those stories finished so that it won't be too long until we see that. :D

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  43. Lol! I can't wait to see you post pics of that outfit, DL. Best go shopping for those pants now! Totally agree with Stellan, too. Dan Brown's writing leaves A LOT to be desired, but he does keep you turning those pages.

    Great post, DL!

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  44. Good post.

    I don't know if I've mastered the hooking thing yet (with my writing, not a mini-skirt). But, I keep trying.

    I've heard it said that at any stopping point in your book, you're reader should always have at least one unanswered question in their mind. Maybe a hook is one way of keeping those unanswered questions present in the mind of the reader.

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  45. Oh, I can't wait until the day your book is published - that will be fun!

    I'm reading Catching Fire, the second book of The Hunger Games right now, and I told my sister just this weekend that I'm going to start putting the book down in the middle of the chapter because once I read the last line of a chapter, I just have to go on to the next one.

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  46. Bahahahahahahahaha DL you crack me up!!! I loved this... I'm still stuck on the blog title alone. I love learning new hook lines!

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  47. Jaleh ~ I'm with you...the sooner the better. I hope to begin querying next month.

    Kimberly ~ I've never read Dan Brown, so I can't really comment. But I imagine he and his banker are laughing there ass off at Skarsgard right now! :)

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  48. ...and you are brilliant. Because how could I not read this post about hookers. Your title alone was a hooker! ;)

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  49. this is an excellent post! That is so my goal, w/ every chapter.

    are you going to the ozark writer's conference, btw?

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  50. I know what you mean! I come up with lines all of the time that don't belong in the section I'm working on, so I jot them down for use later. The hook is sooo important and I especially set them as the last sentence of each chapter. That's what keeps them saying... just one more chapter! My critique groups so far say that they work!
    Can't wait to see your hooker picture!! LOL.
    Great post!

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