I am always amazed at people’s assumption that writing is easy. If it is then I must certainly be doing something wrong. What I’ve learnt thus far is that writing is like any other career. There are rules and regulations, does and don’t, structure and order. And like any other career you have to learn to be good at what you do. For sure, writing is also about talent – a knack for telling a story that someone would want to read but it’s also about knowing how to go about writing that story in such a way as to create the best version of it. When I started writing three years ago I knew absolutely zero about what writing entailed.
After much research and picking the brains of friends I have made along the way I have begun to learn some of the things I need to know to improve my skill and make me a better writer. I do wish though that I had learned about these three things earlier on. It would have made life a whole lot easier. Hopefully, for any of you wishing to traverse a writing path of your own, this will help.
So what exactly is a hook? And why do we need it? A hook is considered to be what grabs the reader’s attention and keeps them wanting to read your book. It is usually the first couple of sentences of your first chapter. This will determine whether your reader feels they want to continue reading to find out what happens next or not. For example:
Feeling somewhat jittery Serena’s unfocused gaze was aimed at her window. She had an amazing view of Table Mountain from her Century City office window but she didn’t see it. Her thoughts were turned inwards as she contemplated all that today might bring.
as opposed to
Serena sat in her office looking out the window. She was nervous. She didn’t know what the day would bring.
Which makes you more inclined to want to read about what’s happening with Serena? Personally, the first example grabs my attention far more than the second.
Tropes, I’ve come to learn, are the issues that drive the hooks. While the hook is how the situation is described in order to make you want to keep reading, the trope is the actual situation itself. In other words, the heart of the story. Is the heroine a down-on-her-luck heiress whose father has lost everything because he was involved in a Ponzi scheme? Or is the hero a single father desperately in need of a mother for his child but wary of getting emotionally involved again as his late wife was a cheater/schemer/gold digger/drug addict? These are what are known as tropes. A couple of examples:
Accidental pregnancy after a one night stand
Marriage of convenience
Mail order bride
The situation that drives the entire story.
3. Head hopping
Something rookie/amateur writers do and is a dead give-away. “What is head hopping?” I hear you ask. Good question! I didn’t know either. Simply put, head hopping is moving from what one character is feeling/thinking/experiencing to another character within the same scene. Let me demonstrate:
Blushing, she turned to pour the coffee, which has finished running through the machine, to give herself a minute to collect her composure. His endearment had delivered a heady wallop to her feminine senses. She had no idea what it was about him, but Gray made her want things she’d hadn’t in the longest time. With just a look or a smile he made her hot and needy. She wanted him in the worst way.
Handing him a cup, she pushing the sugar over to him and headed over to the fridge for the milk.
“So Gray, what brings you to my door so early in the morning? Wait, is that smoke I smell?” Her brain finally catching up with the rest of her, she’d just noticed a strong smell of smoke when she was near to him.
With a grim set to his beautiful face, he nodded.
“I’ve just come from the scene of a fire up the road.” It had been a crappy morning so far and he’d felt a deep need to see her. Just to be in her presence. Just to talk to her about nothing of consequence. Just to be with her.
“Oh. Are you okay?”
In this scene you can clearly see there are two character. And it perfectly demonstrates head hopping. The first part shows what’s going on with her – what she’s thinking/feeling/experiencing. Just a few lines later, still in the same scene, we’re looking at it from his point of view – what he’s thinking/feeling/experiencing. To avoid this mistake a writer should always stick to one character per scene. It makes it less confusing for the reader.
I still have many things to learn as I go on but these three were really important for me to get early on. And now that I have it’s made a big difference. I hope this helps you too.