How to Hook Readers and Reel Them into Your Scenes

We toss around the word hook when we talk about stories. What’s the hook? we ask. Sometimes we’re talking about the overall premise: what component to the story idea is unique, compelling, intriguing. Othertimes we’re talking about the first few lines of a novel (or first line) that is to be crafted in a way to grab readers and make them want to read more.

But that’s not all the hooks we need. We’re on the hook for coming up with great openings for every scene we write. Sure, novels don’t have a killer first-line hook for every scene, but we certainly want to open each scene strong.

That usually means ditching explanation and backstory and dull description of place and weather. Instead, a more effective way to hook readers into a scene is to consider these things:

  • The tone or mood you need to set that implies the POV character’s state of mind and emotion.
  • The situation you can insert your character into that is already underway in an interesting manner (in other words, don’t start scenes with your character waking up, then brushing his teeth, then getting dressed, for example).
  • Some element of mystery or microtension that creates curiosity.

Sure, a catchy first line or paragraph is helpful to hook readers, but you can’t always be that snappy with every scene opening, nor would it be a good idea. Continue Reading…

Evoking Emotions in Readers in a Masterful Way – Part 4

We’ve been looking at the way thoughts lead to emotions, and how getting into our characters’ thoughts can be a powerful tool to evoking emotion in our readers. Which is our prime objective as fiction writers.

Part of the natural behavior humans engage in is processing. Something happens, we process it. We do this every waking moment. I’ve written numerous posts on this much-overlooked natural behavior that our characters, as well, need to engage in.

At any given moment in your scene, a character is either acting, reacting, processing, making a new decision, or initiating a new action. This whole cycle could take place, at times, over a few seconds, or it could take hours. It depends.

On what? On what is happening. Fast-action scenes in high-octane thrillers might have characters going through this cycle repeatedly every few seconds. A killer runs through a crowd. The hero follows, sees the killer run into traffic, then reacts. Quickly, he decides to go around the block (after processing his choices and the best chance he has of catching the bad guy), then rushes off (new action).

At other times, those down times in a thriller, your character may be able to kick back and spend some minutes processing. Maybe even days mulling over a situation and trying to figure a way out or around (while lots of other action is continuing to play out in the novel). Continue Reading…

Evoking Emotions in Readers in a Masterful Way – Part 3

In the last two posts, we’ve looked at the challenge of evoking emotions in our readers. You’ve learned that just telling how a character feels does little to nothing to evoke emotional response in your reader.

The primary purpose of fiction is to elicit an emotional response. Think about it. Readers of fiction aren’t reading to acquire facts, such as they might do when studying a nonfiction book. They read to be entertained, affected. They read to be tense, laugh, worry, get excited. In other words, they read to feel something.

And your job as a fiction writer is to masterfully write in a way that will evoke a specific emotional response in your reader. You may not be able to name exactly what those emotions are, but you should know what those emotions feel like when you experience them.

We looked at how thoughts lead to emotions, and that getting into your character’s head and showing her thoughts in a masterful way is the ticket for eliciting that emotion in your reader.

Emotions are wide and varied. Subtle and strong. You might want to evoke just a tiny bit of sympathy or a huge heart of compassion in your reader. You might want your reader to end a scene feeling a tiny bit annoyed with a character. Or feeling outraged.

You are the magician and the manipulator of emotion. So it behooves you to study hard. Examine passages in novels that move you. Then figure out what the author wrote that had that impact on you. Continue Reading…

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