Friday, December 09, 2005

Hooks: Opening Story Questions

The most important story questions are the first ones, the ones you plant in the opening. Story questions posed in the opening are called hooks. Get your hooks in the reader immediately.

Why? Remember that prospective readers pick your novel off a shelf in the bookstore and start reading the first page. Make them take it to the cash register.

They are as fussy as trout, who have countless offerings to pick from. So, you must tie very tempting flies and tantalize your prey with them.

You have but seconds to sink your hooks into them!

These initial story questions are also the hardest to devise, because nothing has happened yet and you have no characters yet. Consequently hooks ordinarily create Type 1 Suspense, arousing curiosity only. If you write literary fiction, strive for opening story questions about the core conflict. If you write mainstream or genre fiction, your opening story questions needn't relate to the core conflict. They can be short-range story questions about the action or dialog in the opening scene.

Which type of opening story question is better? It's a question of form versus function. Purists prefer rigid classical form with long-range opening story questions about the core conflict, so that "the end is in the beginning and the beginning is in the end."

Purism is folly. Nonetheless, there is a good reason to consider using classical form, and I'll talk about that tomorrow.

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