Can I hook a teen? Sure, I have two teens of my own, so I have years of experience. All you need is a really good, sturdy hook, like the one below, and then you gotta bait it with some pizza or an iPhone–
Okay, I’m going to stop now before I get in trouble! This particular contest is about an entirely different kind of hook: The beginning of your story. For me, crafting the perfect First Page Hook is scarier and more painful than a big, sharp fishhook right in the butt (which happened to my sister when she was a kid).
I have a great time writing once the story gets going, but that first page is a killer. I think I’ve revised it 10 times, and last week my wonderful writers’ group told me it’s still not hooky enough. (What would I do without them? Working on a MS which is nowhere near as polished, is the answer!)
Back to that in a minute. Brenda Drake is hosting a super-fun and challenging contest to show off our amazing, shiny, perfect 250-word hooks. Not just any old 250 words, but the book’s very beginning – the exact part which is likely to hook and draw in the readers you’re trying to attract. Kate and Taryn of Teen Eyes Editorial Services will be the judges, and boy am I as nervous as a worm hanging onto the end of a fishing line!
I’ll definitely be tweaking and polishing my entry some more before the deadline on September 23. I haven’t changed anything since writers’ group last week, thinking I’d let it stew, but nothing has really come to mind yet. They think the 2nd paragraph is a bit of an info dump that can be written into the action instead. I’m also going to post the original beginning, in the hopes that maybe some of you can help me sort the problem out.
So this is what I’m using now:
The wind flung debris into my eyes over the pages of the book, jarring me back to reality. A faint glow from the full moon was just starting to show over the tops of the trees. Nighttime had sneaked up on me again. Great. I stopped walking long enough to stuff the paperback I’d been reading into my backpack before I fell on my face, then quickened my steps.
So it really sucked that the trail through the woods was the quickest way home. I hated my brother for telling me the old ghost story too many times as a kid, with that embellished, sadistic way only older brothers can do.
And the original beginning:
The wind rattled the door next to me like it was trying to get in, making me jump. My cup of hot chocolate fell off the table, spilling all over my backpack. I grabbed napkins from the dispenser and mopped the chocolate up, then wadded them into a sopping ball, which I tossed at the garbage bin. It hit the side with a juicy splat and slid to the floor.
The cashier shot me a perky smile from behind the counter. “You aren’t leaving already, are you, Nissa? The only book you’ve cracked all afternoon’s been that corny romance.”
“It’s getting dark.” I stuffed the book into my backpack and aimed my cup at the bin, where it bounced off the rim to join the dripping napkins on the floor.
“See you tomorrow?”
I scooped my garbage up into the bin, then cast a nervous glance at the purple sky, where the faintest glow from the full moon was just starting to show over the tops of the trees. “Maybe. It seems like night is starting to come earlier now.” I waved goodbye, then headed across the parking lot. If I hurried, I could probably still make the shortcut through the woods. The wind blew harder as I reached the crosswalk, biting my cheeks with a chill that felt like early winter and smelled like log fires.
Darkness and wind. Not a good combination. There’s an old legend about the little pockets of woods dotting my town.
Maybe it’s just me, but I didn’t think the cafe scene was really necessary. Just after that part, she gets to the woods, and then there’s the description about why they’re so creepy. It was this original beginning that hooked Sarah LaPolla of Curtis Brown and got her to request a full – but then she broke my heart anyway! 😉
I’d love to know what parts of either version you find to be the most hooky. When you start a book, what is it about the first page that sucks you in? An intro to the main characters before adding the conflict? Starting right in the middle of the action? Dialogue, internal narrative, or a combination? What books have you read recently whose beginnings you just loved?
I can’t wait to read the other entrants’ first 250 words and find out all the creative and amazing ways they’re beginning their books!