Martina Boone's advice about hooks
Martina Boone writes (World-building: the hooks of magic in your book):
In my own writing, I have recently discovered that I can apply hooks to every aspect of my work. I am becoming convinced that each world, each fictional community, each character, each location, each chapter, each page in the book should have a hook.
World: What sets your world apart from every other world? What makes it different than our world? What makes is more wonderful? More horrible? More terrifying? More beautiful?
Community: What sets this group of friends or co-conspirators apart from the norm? What brings them together into a cohesive unit? What makes this "group" something that your readers will want to belong to? What is the hook on which this community is based?
Character: What is the most memorable thing about your character? What distinguishes him or her from every other character? Physically? Personality-wise? In background? Include a hook for each.
Location: What is the most memorable thing about your setting? Your overall setting? Your scene settings? Include a hook for every place, and include things that your characters can interact with to "set" the mood and location in the reader's mind.
Chapter: What happens in each chapter that is unique? What is the one-sentence take-away and how did you make it memorable?
Page: Is there a detail of character, setting, scene, or community that is memorable and alive?
This is a very powerful concept. I think, with this challenge/question that can be applied (recursively!) to every element of your novel, whether you are a plotter or a pantser (as Tom Ostler classified folks in his excellent preparatory workshops), you have a tool and a motivation to continually strive for excellence with everything you write.
What do you think? What are some of the hooks from your this-year's nano novel?
One of my main characters this year will be a flawed mentor (and actual great-great-grand-uncle) to my novel's young hero. His hook will be the unwinding mystery of his past, one that will catch up to him in the end and that will haunt and strive to destroy the hero. What would you be willing to sacrifice for a chance of redemption? What if the thing or the person you sacrificed for the greater good turns out to cause more harm than you would have if you hadn't redeemed yourself.
Thinking about hooks isn't a bad idea, but if you try to build your setting too much, your plot can become inextricably ensnared by all the bits and pieces that aren't pertinent to it. A workshop I went to at Dragon Con last year taught me that thinking about these things can help you get a better feel for your world and characters, but warned against including all that info directly into your novel, (this was called "info-dumping.") When readers hit a massive block of text about a particular character or piece of history, they can and often will skip over it to get back to "the good parts," (this was described as "that glossy-eyed effect.")
For what they're worth, here are my personal tips: All things in moderation. Leaving some things unexplained gives you the ability to go back and reference it later, with greater detail. Adding things that seem irrelevant at the time lets you pick them up later and run with them, and leave the reader thinking that you had it planned all along.
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