Hook, Line and Sinker


Yesterday I bungee jumped for the first time, and all would’ve gone well if that cord hadn’t….

Did I hook you yet?

Nope, I didn’t REALLY go bungee jumping (although it’s been a wild-girl dream of mine for awhile now). But the purpose of hooks in writing is to pull the reader in so tightly, they don’t want to let go of your book.

Let’s think of some famous hooks, right smack at the beginning of books.

“It was a dark and stormy night”–THE RAVEN, by Edgar Allan Poe

“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.”–REBECCA, by Daphne Du Maurier

“Scarlett O’Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it when caught by her charm as the Tarleton twins were.”–GONE WITH THE WIND, by Margaret Mitchell

These sentences draw you in and make you want to know MORE about the what on earth the main character is all about.

In writing novels, I’ve discovered that in modern books, there’s usually a substantial hook at the end of every chapter. Old books aren’t necessarily this way. In reading over some end sentences of classics, I find they do have hooks, only not as dramatic as modern-day tales, perhaps. See if you spot the hooks in these end chapter sentences:

“But now he felt confident enough to say inwardly, ‘I will take odds that the marriage will never happen.'”–DANIEL DERONDA, by George Eliot

“Anna looked at him with dreamy, shining eyes, and said nothing.”–ANNA KARENINA, by Leo Tolstoy

“But with all the hopes of cheerfulness, and all the present comfort of delay, there was still such an evil hanging over her in the hour of explanation with Harriet, as made it impossible for Emma to be ever perfectly at ease.”–EMMA, by Jane Austen

I was actually surprised to find these obvious hooks at the end of classics. Some classic writers do have a habit of droning on and on, making me give up entirely. Even though Moby Dick starts with “Call me Ishmael,” I think it kind of loses speed at some point (thus explaining why I’ve never forced myself to finish it). Charles Dickens also tends to lose me occasionally.

Today’s novels generally have more obvious hooks. I’ll show you a couple (first one isn’t the end of a chapter, but part of a chapter).

“A bitter seed was planted inside a me. And I just didn’t feel so accepting anymore.”–THE HELP, by Kathryn Stockett

“Choking on the sudden hope that dizzied me, I lifted my eyes to the man’s face.”–THE HOST, by Stephenie Meyer

**Do you have any examples of favorite “hook lines” from books you couldn’t put down?
**If you’re a writer, would you share one of your favorite “hooks” from your novel, unpublished or published?

3 thoughts on “Hook, Line and Sinker

  1. Here are two hooks from my unpublished novel, "A Long Run Home.""They were dead, all of them, no survivors. Decaying carcasses littered the dirt streets of my town as the bells continued to ring." "The next day at breakfast Max again asked the server the funny question about the penny, this time however, the server replied, “A penny for a pound.” Then walked off." Love your examples, I love many of the classics you quoted. I haven't read either of the new books you mentioned.

  2. Thanks, TC! Love your hook lines, with the bells ringing over the dead, and I'm wondering what Max asked about the penny.I would recommend The Help and The Host, though there's one scene in The Help that they cut from the movie that was pretty graphic. If you watched the movie first, you'd probably know if you'd like the book on that one.

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