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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Hook Your Readers by Janice Seagraves

Hi, my name is, Janice Seagraves. I’m a romance writer.

I write romances of various genres. My depute novel, Windswept Shores, is an erotic contemporary romance. It’s published through, Pink Petal books.

I’m delighted to tell you that I’m the new contributing author for Romance Books “R” Us blog.

If you’re a fellow writer, that’s wonderful. If your finished your first full manuscript--congratulations. That in itself is a feat only a few of us can claim. A lot of people say they want to write, but only a few start and a fewer still ever finish.

But now the hard part really begins. The revision process and refining the beginning hook.

Let’s get a look at a beginning hook, shall we?

You'll need to start where everything changes for your characters. What they call in media res – in the middle of things.

At this point everything else is back-story. And the rule about back-story is no back-story in the first chapter. The first chapter is strictly for hooking your reader. Save the back-story for the third chapter. That way your reader is hooked into reading further to find out more.

However, you will need some kind of setup for the beginning scene, before you set the beginning hook. If you feel you need something of the back-story to help set the scene, then use a single sentence.

In this scene I do use a little back-story to help set the scene, but I used the rule of one sentence.

Here's the breakdown of my hook from my book, Windswept Shores:

Setting the scene:
Breathing hard, Megan flicked a glance at the teal-colored sea.


One sentence back-story: 
She’d thought a vacation to the Bahamas would be the perfect getaway, would be a solution to the problems she and Jonathan had faced. She’d been wrong—dead wrong.

This part is for reader sympathy:
Tears of grief filled her eyes. The never-ending crash of the waves on the beach and the cries of the seagulls seemed to mock her with the reminder she was utterly alone.

She’d felt like a tiny speck of sand last night when a violent storm had swept across the island. It had made a mess of her meager campsite, which had taken all morning to fix, and had demolished her seaweed SOS sign. She’ll have to recreate her SOS. Sighing, Megan trudged toward a pile of kelp. As she got closer, she saw a figure wearing blue jeans and a t-shirt. Her stomach lurched.

Oh, God, it’s another body washed up from the plane wreck. That would be number twelve. As always, she couldn’t help but wonder if the next one would be Jonathan. He hadn’t been wearing jeans on the plane, so she knew she’d been spared seeing his corpse this time. Thank God. She approached the body with dread. Tightening her resolve, she knelt.

The hook: 
Suddenly the “dead body” coughed and rolled over. With a scream, Megan jumped back. She clutched her chest and pressed a shaking hand to her mouth.

And now I reel my reader in:
He’s alive!

This part is to describe the hero: 
His drenched t-shirt molded against his broad shoulders and well developed upper body. Short, golden brown hair stuck out in all directions. Biting her lip, she stared down at the still-breathing man.

Add little humor:
Megan, get control of yourself. Don’t wet your pants the first time you finally see a living person. She got on her knees, plucked the seaweed from him and wiped the sand from his face.

Then add a little spice: His day-old whiskers scratched her palm. Reddened skin stretched across both cheekbones and over the bridge of his nose. Her thumb caressed his parched full bottom lip.

She patted the side of his face. “Hey, are you okay?”

Note:
I didn't start where Megan got washed up on Windswept Shores. No, I started when the hero did. Because for a romance this is where the story really begins. Everything else is back-story, which I do add but well after the first chapter.

Now let's put it all together:
Breathing hard, Megan flicked a glance at the teal-colored sea. She’d thought a vacation to the Bahamas would be the perfect getaway, would be a solution to the problems she and Jonathan had faced. She’d been wrong—dead wrong. Tears of grief filled her eyes. The never-ending crash of the waves on the beach and the cries of the seagulls seemed to mock her with the reminder she was utterly alone.

She’d felt like a tiny speck of sand last night when a violent storm had swept across the island. It had made a mess of her meager campsite, which had taken all morning to fix, and had demolished her seaweed SOS sign. She’ll have to recreate her SOS. Sighing, Megan trudged toward a pile of kelp. As she got closer, she saw a figure wearing blue jeans and a t-shirt. Her stomach lurched.

Oh, God, it’s another body washed up from the plane wreck. That would be number twelve. As always, she couldn’t help but wonder if the next one would be Jonathan. He hadn’t been wearing jeans on the plane, so she knew she’d been spared seeing his corpse this time. Thank God. She approached the body with dread. Tightening her resolve, she knelt. Suddenly the “dead body” coughed and rolled over. With a scream, Megan jumped back. She clutched her chest and pressed a shaking hand to her mouth.

He’s alive!

Biting her lip, she stared down at the still-breathing man. His drenched t-shirt molded against his broad shoulders and well developed upper body. Short, golden brown hair stuck out in all directions.
Megan, get control of yourself. Don’t wet your pants the first time you finally see a living person. She got on her knees, plucked the seaweed from him and wiped the sand from his face. His day-old whiskers scratched her palm. Reddened skin stretched across both cheekbones and over the bridge of his nose. Her thumb caressed his parched full bottom lip.

She patted the side of his face. “Hey, are you okay?” That’s a dumb question. He isn’t okay.

“Hmm?” Gray eyes fluttered open. He stared at her a long moment, frowning slightly. “G’day.”

“Hello there.” She hated the sound of her voice. It sounded rusty, unused.

Abruptly he rolled away from her to heave onto the sand, making a loud, ugly retching noise.

He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, then looked at her. “Sorry, mate, I swallowed too much sea.” His gaze went over her shoulder in the direction of the bonfire which crackled and popped not far from them. “Mite big for a barbie.”

Sitting back on her heels with her hands folded in her lap, Megan followed his gaze, then back to him. “My signal fire.”

“Signal for what?”

“Help.”

His accent intrigued her. Was he English or Australian?

“G’darn,” he looked around, “where the bloody hell am I?”

“Don’t know. There’s no one here to ask.” Megan shrugged helplessly, but couldn’t contain her curiosity.

“Are you from England?”

“Naw,” he rubbed his eyes, “I hail from Sydney, but my port of call these days is Fort Lauderdale.” He blinked up at her. “You?”

Ah, he’s an Aussie. “I’m Megan Lorry, from Anaheim, California,” she said, barely loud enough to be heard above the sounds of the surf and the roar from the fire. “Are you a survivor of Air Bahamas flight 227, too?”
~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~
Janice's blog: http://ladyjanice.blogspot.com/
Janice's website: http://janiceseagraves.org/
Find Windswept Shores at: http://pinkpetalbooks.com/Windswept-Shores-Janice-Seagraves.html

11 comments:

Tina Donahue said...

Welcome to RBRU, Janice!

Awesome blog - a perfect explanation of how an opening should be written. :)

Molly Daniels said...

LOL:) In my first pubbed book, all the back story was in a heated argument between the H/h:)

Welcome!

Janice said...

Hi Tina,

Thank you very much, I'm happy to be here. :)

I'm glad you enjoyed my post.

Hi Molly,

Actually that's fine. A natural flowing dialogue between your characters is a good way to get the back-story out. Just as long as your not using your characters internal dialogue or author's voice to tell it.

Janice~

Cassie Exline said...

Great post. The beginning hook is important.

Katalina Leon said...

Wonderful post Janice! The opening hook is always a challenge for me. Its hard to decide how to slice into that pie... I rewrite my hooks many times until I feel they're right.
Welcome to RBRU!
XXOO Kat

jean hart stewart said...

Welcome to the group... great explanation of how to hook your reader. My problem, though, is the soggy middle. That can really give me fits....Jean

Janice said...

Hi Cassie,

Good to see you here. Thank you and yes it certainly is.

Hi Katalina,

Good job reworking you beginning. Some times you have to.

I rewrote the beginning to Windswept so many times, I almost retold it from the point of view of the kelp. Which would have been interesting but not romantic.

Hi Jean,

Thank you.

I have a way to cure saggy middles.

*looks around* It's a secret so don't tell anyone. *leans closer* Use the middle for your great reveal or first main sex scene.

Janice~

Marianne Stephens said...

Great way to hook readers...you caught my attention with the with your set-up. Nicely done. Dead body that isn't a dead body!

Jacquie Rogers said...

Excellent dissection of a strong hook, Janice. Thanks!

M. S. Spencer said...

Really wonderful blog Janice! btw I only got the link today or would have written sooner--*!#% yahoo...I love the way you parse the chapter & put it back together. Very useful! thanks, Meredith

Janice said...

Hi Marianne,

Thank you. After a lot of rewrites and rethinking the scene that's the one that worked the best.

Hi Jacquie,

Thank you very much.

Hi Meredith,

Thank you. I'm glad you found it helpful.

Janice~

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