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April 5th, 2007

By Hook or By Crook

One of the most important components of a short story is the hook. In a story, the hook serves the same purpose as it does on a fishing pole. It is where you put a mental worm to entice the reader and get them to bite, hopefully reeling them all the way in so they will go ahead and read the story.
In short stories, the hook normally is the first line or second line, definitely in the first paragraph. It’s just enough of a tidbit that it will entice the reader’s mind and make it hungry to find out what this is about. Just like many components of writing, it can be its own art form. And sometimes can be difficult as heck to come up with.
With the changing times and faster pace brought on by TV, music videos, cell phones, PDA’s, IM’s, PC games, game consoles (basically springing up concepts of instant gratification or fulfillment) hooks (short and fast ones that is - for there is always a hook somewhere) are becoming more and more of a necessity in novels as well.
The concept is very much like what they teach you out in the business world about the 30 second pitch. Most people have an attention span of 30 to 60 seconds to get grabbed by something and make an impression before the rest of it becomes so much background noise. So when preparing to go out there and seek employment, you are encouraged to come up with a 30 second blurb about yourself to make an impact on the prospective employer, give them useful information, and hopefully make a good lasting impression. (As they say in the field, no matter what the truth is, if you make a bad impression in those first few seconds, regardless of all that happens after, that first impression will stick around forever.)
So what makes a good hook?
Hooks can be composed of text or description, what matters is the reaction they bring out of the reader.
Here’s the first line of “Price of Mercy” (my latest novel which is now looking for a home.) The first line reads:
“I’m sorry, dearest, but your services are no longer required.”
BOOM - right off the bat, our fertile imaginations explode with questions and assumptions. It is obvious the speaker is acquainted with whom they are speaking. Might even hint of a rather close relationship. The second half of the sentence tells us that there’s trouble. Immediately we want to now what services are being spoken of and make us wonder why they are no longer required. Also peaks our curiosity as to how badly this may affect the possible protagonist.
Of course this tiny piece of worm would not be enough to get the reader to bite, but you’ve irked the curiosity just enough to get them to move on to the next sentence.
Jarrin blinked, his throat going dry, sure he’d heard wrong. “No longer…?”
Now you’ve met the protagonist, and from his reaction your original suspicion that the first sentence was a dose of bad news is reinforced. More of the worm has been exposed (and with any luck!) things are looking mighty tasty.
“Required? Yes, you heard right.” The baroness’s voice was even. She was sitting in her favorite divan, her pampered poodle, Precious, curled up on her lap.
By this point, they’ve hopefully bit and you start in on the business of showing time, place, setting.
Martha Wells came up with an awesome hook in The Wizard Hunters (The Fall of Ile-Rein Book 1)
It was nine o’clock at night and Tremaine was trying to find a way to kill herself that would bring a verdict of of natural causes in court when someone banged on the door.
Instantly the reader springs with several questions at once. Why would Tremaine want to kill herself? Why does she need it to look like natural causes? What has driven this person to this course? (CHOMP) The reader has bit the hook. The curiosity has been enflamed and now must proceed or never get answers. They’re hooked!
Grab the nearest book at hand and check out those first few lines. See what beautiful worms they dangled before your eyes on the hook to get you to bite. Come back here and share those great hooks and lets be enticed together.

Tags: ; ;
Gloria Oliver
Unveiling the Fantastic



(2015) Fantasy

The King is Dead! Long Live the Undead King!

"What are you implying?"

The magister glided forward and scrunched down beside him.

"That in order to bathe, you must first actually get into the bath."


(2014) Urban Fantasy

It took everything from her, except revenge!

The muscles in my right arm jerked from tension as I tried to make it move and it resisted. A shrill scream inside my head insisted I didn't want to do this. That if I did, there'd be no way to take it back. "I...I'm afraid."


(2011) Young Adult – Fantasy

Which is worse…the monster without or within?


Home—family—the two things he would never have, the two things forever denied him…because of her.

Anger welled inside him, the heat of it suffusing him to the core, gurgling with seething emotions the total opposite of the coolness splashing down from the fountain nearby. Before he realized what he was doing, Jarrin stepped inside the gazebo.

(2007) Young Adult – Fantasy
“Harry Potter meets Dragon Riders of Pern”


“Do you need any help?” she asked. “Just tell me what you want me to do. If you prefer, I’m sure I can round up at least a few people to come over and give you a hand.”

Kel slowly shook his head. “It’s all right. Thanks anyway.” His voice lowered to where she almost couldn’t hear it. “This is all part of my punishment.’

She frowned, not understanding what he meant. “Punishment?”

Kel cocked his head in Clarence’s direction. In a flash, she understood. None of this was an accident. Clarence had landed there deliberately, hoping to make Kel pay for all he went through in the past month. She shook her head, not wanting to believe this, but what the dragon said next took any doubts right out of her head.

(2008) Young Adult – Fantasy
“To save the world she must DIE! Or must she?”


Panic and fear filled with utter helplessness made her dizzy. She knew what would be done with her, she knew what they planned. But there was nothing she could do to stop any of it.

Sharp gasps echoed in her ears as she felt the room’s cold air caress the Eye.

“You were right. She is the one.”

(2002) Adult/YA – Japanese Fantasy Adventure
“The Last Samurai meets Pirates of the Caribbean”


Laying the blade on the floor before him, Toshi parted his kimono until his stomach lay exposed. He tucked his sleeves beneath his legs to hold him upright if he should falter. Ignoring Asano, he took up the blade. His shoulder flared with pain and he tried not to flinch, as he grabbed the blade with both hands. He turned the wakizashi until its sharp point was aimed at his belly, the residence of his soul.

(2004) Adult/YA – Fantasy Mystery
“He tried to forget his past, but his past wouldn’t forget him”


Torren took a step back a sudden shudder racking through him. It was as if he’d never left, as if the boy he’d been would be coming back-though the one who’d loved this room and all these things was long, long dead. That boy died when he’d watched his father’s blood pour forth from his mouth, the end of a sword protruding from his abdomen. That boy died when he survived while everyone else lay dead.

Info, sample chapters, and free reads at www.gloriaoliver.com

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