It’s Hard to be a Hooker

Writers are routinely told that it is essential to “hook the reader” early. Back in the day, i.e., long before I ventured into writing, the recommendation was to get that task complete within the first 1,500 words. (I found that tidbit of wisdom in a book printed in the ’90s.)

Over the last couple of decades however, the writer’s window of opportunity has been getting smaller and smaller.

I recall reading — this time in a magazine — something like: “a clever writer will have the reader wondering about page two before getting to the bottom of page one.” That’s like the first 250 words if the opening page is dialogue; you get twice that if it is descriptive narrative.

Well, guess what? Our short-attention-span culture now requires the “hook” to be made right away. Now, the “experts” recommend something of such brilliance be put in the first paragraph — even better the first sentence — that the reader feels utterly compelled to slap $25.99 down and march out with the latest great novel.

Yesterday, I wrote the first chapter of Accidental Gravitas. Here are the first 213 words:

Mitchell Bradford was stopped at a red light, waiting to turn left, in the center of Ledbury when he first felt it. It was warm and sitting in the center of his chest. Having just finished the better portion of a large Hunter’s Choice pizza from the Fleet Pub and two double dirty martinis, Mitch believed the sensation to be indigestion.

Initially.

But when the warmth turned electric, Mitch guessed it was something different. Glancing to his right – to the woman in the minivan clearly lecturing the collected passengers behind her – Mitch hoped she would stop yelling at her children and roll down her window to tell him what was happening. She was a mother, he thought; mothers know how to fix strange ailments. The driver behind Mitch laid on his horn, cutting off Mitch’s opportunity to have the angry woman in the oversized vehicle help him. Mitch turned the wheel using both hands to compensate for the weakness and numbness he felt in his arms. The horn-honker was only a few feet from the rear bumper of Mitch’s antique Jaguar. Normally, Mitch would downshift to increase the torque and leave the impatient nuisance in the wake of 3.6 liters of power; but Mitch was far from convinced this drive home was “normal.”

Bear in mind that these 213 words are not forever set in stone. Though if you’re hooked, they might be. And ultimately, the writer will be told by an “expert” whether this hook is good enough to get the customer excited enough about the story to fork over cash to prove it.

Perhaps prostitution is not the oldest profession after all?

2 thoughts on “It’s Hard to be a Hooker

  1. Don’t sell every reader short! I read you “Plus One” and never did really find the hook except for the people that I met in the story and became captivated by them. If you don’t have a terrific picture on the dust cover, then you have to kidnap the reader in the first chapter. Bookstores have coffee these days and you allowed to actually sit down for a few minutes with a prospective literary purchase.

    Like

    1. Agreed. I’m not one to sell the intelligent reader short. Ever. But ultimately, it’s all about sales; which may account for my writing six books before trying to find a market for them. I’m a shy hooker, l guess.

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s