Last week, I read an excellent post on Things to Avoid in Your Novel’s Opening Page from the Kill Zone bloggers. The post in question dealt with the hook – those critical 250 words that make or break a book. (It’s worth reading. Check it out. I’ll wait…)
The Inciting Incident: Book Hook No No’s
“Why is a hook so important?” you may ask.
The short answer is: only about 250 words will fit on the first page of the average book. If they don’t grab your reader’s interest, then the reader won’t turn the page. If that happens, dear friends, then your book is dead in the water.
It won’t matter that you have a killer scene in chapter 3. It won’t matter if you have encapsulated all the angst in history in your protagonist. It won’t matter if you have written The. Funniest. Sidekick. Ever. If the hook doesn’t make the reader turn the page, no one will know.
The Kill Zone blog is the labor of love of 7 acclaimed thriller & mystery authors who use it to educate and inspire those of us who may not have ahem made it yet.
The "Opening Page" blog post referenced earlier is written by James Scott Bell, bestselling novelist, non-fiction author, and contributing fiction editor to Writer’s Digest Magazine. So, you know, he has some credibility.
Bell lists 5 specific no-no’s that can ruin a book hook. These include:
• Don’t have a character alone, thinking.
• Don’t do an exposition dump.
• Don’t start with a dream.
The Catalyst: A Facebook Fan Page Link
Because I’m always on the lookout for useful information, I posted a link to this piece on my Facebook Fan page. (Note the selfish plug. I’m shameless, really.)
A few people wrote to thank me for the useful information in the link. Others, however, took exception with how the advice was presented.
You see, J.S. Bell gave an example of What Not to Do and explained that it was a poor choice for a book’s hook because:
I don't care. I hate to be piggy about this, but I really don’t care... The mistake writers make is in thinking that readers will have immediate sympathy for a person who is upset. They won’t... We all got troubles. What else is new?
One reader of the piece appreciated Bell’s honesty and posted:
I just looked at my first page again. I reworked it with his advice, and it looks lots better. Thanks for the link.
However, the advice & rationale struck a nerve with another reader. She posted a mini-tirade against Bell, called his credentials into question, blasted the genre he wrote in, and defended beginning her book with One of The Forbidden Five.
As you can imagine, a lively discussion ensued. Tune in tomorrow for a look at why one person’s comments about the words we write can trigger a maelstrom of emotions usually reserved for people who make disparaging remarks about our children.
Has a person’s criticism, advice, or suggestions for changing something you’ve written ever sparked a firestorm or fury from you? Please comment below on your experience.