Hook Me Baby, One More Time

Song of the Day: Fix Me by 10 Years

Stacey and I took an amazing workshop this weekend by Mary Buckham. It was an entire, and exhausting, interactive day based on her infamous Break Into Fiction teachings. Wow, my mind was mush after the workshop. I practically had to be wheeled out of the room.

We learned of hooks, strong openings, scene survival, and active settings. Participants were to bring copies of their own work. Those brave enough allowed Mary to publically crucify them. Stacey is still licking her wounds and I’m still scraping the tar and picking the feathers from my skin. It was awesome! *she says it a high-pitched sing-song voice*

Since we here at MuseTracks are all about spreading the love, I thought I’d share a little of what I learned.

We all know we should include hooks in our stories. Heck, it’s been beat over our heads with a gnarled stick time and again. Hooks should raise questions and make the reader turn the page for the answers. Even better, a hook should evoke a reaction.

Mary referred to Donald Maass’ Writing The Break Out Novel workbook on what types of hooks create those reactions.

Action / danger – (Rat-a-tat-tat, KaPow, screeeeech)

Surprising situation – (What the—? Shazam!)

Overpowering emotion – (sniff, grrrrrr, ack)

Evocative description anchoring the reader to a setting – (It was a dark and stormy night…)

Introducing a unique character – (“Hello, Clarice.”)

Foreshadow / warning – (Don’t go in there! Nooo! I said DON’T!)

Shocking / witty dialogue – (“We’re gonna need a bigger boat.”)

The totally unexpected – (Wow. I DID NOT see that coming.)

Raising a direct question – (OMG! What did he/she say/do next?)

*By no means are these horrendous examples Donald’s or Mary’s.

Hooks don’t just happen in the opening sentence or opening paragraph of a book. Hooks should be sprinkled throughout, especially at the end of a chapter. It’s natural for a reader to stick a bookmark at a chapter’s end and go do the laundry, cook dinner, or sleep. Ending on a hook ensures the reader will want to read on—the kids can feed themselves—or at least hurry back if they must put the book down.

Consider the importance of a hook at the end of the first page. Many potential readers browsing books will decide if they will buy a book by the first page. As the saying goes, you have 30 seconds to grab their attention. Okay, I don’t know if this is really a saying, but I know you’ve heard it before. It’s ingrained on that stick that’s been used to beat you with.

Other hook hotspots include at the end of the third page, in each new scene, and, for those writing a series, the book’s last line. And when that editor or agent asks for a partial, you’d better darn well end that third chapter with a hook, too.

Wow, that’s a lot of hooks. Makes you want to get paid for your services. Oh wait…

The more hooks, the merrier. You want your readers to be stark raving mad with hunger, devouring your book, shirking all responsibilities, just to finish your masterpiece.

Mary Buckham was a real hoot. I believe her wit is one of the reasons she is so marvelous.  I only skated across a mere part of her workshop. If you want the expanded edition, the real deal, her wise tutelage, I highly recommend taking one of Mary’s classes. And if you have the opportunity to do so in person, do!

Have you ever attended a class taught by Mary? What about a workshop that blew your socks away? I’d love to hear from you.

13 Responses to Hook Me Baby, One More Time

  1. Hi there! I was so thrilled to see this post in my inbox today! I actually won “Break Into Fiction” at the WRW retreat last spring and have been referencing it ever since. I’ve always wished that Mary or Dianna might be teaching a class near me and I’m keeping my fingers crossed with that. I love the templates in the book. And I LOVE what you’ve added with the hooks. And what a wonderful photo to boot! I seriously love you Musetracks!


    • jbrayweber says:

      Wow, Carlene. Comments like yours make this blog so much more worthwhile. Thanks! *blushing*

      I’ve met Dianna a few times and totally adore her. And as I said, Mary is a real hoot. I can’t say enough great things about them. If either do come close to you, jump on the opportunity to see them. You won’t regret it.


  2. The workshop was wonderful even with the pain mixed in! I learned an incredible amount and yes- I AM still licking my wounds…..who knew I knew so little?!?!?!?
    Love your examples with the different type of hooks! Great post.


    • jbrayweber says:

      Ha! I agree. Just when you think you’ve got a handle on something – WHAM! – you realize ‘not so much’. Still, it was great fun, too, wasn’t it, Stacey?


  3. Sorry, I can’t answer right now. I’m busy shredding my first page.


  4. Great post, Jenn! I feel alot like Susan! LOL Sorry I had to leave early, but what I did get to hear will help make my writing so much stronger. 🙂


    • jbrayweber says:

      Aw, Missy. You were one of the lucky ones. You made it out alive. HAHA!
      I agree. Her class will certainly make my writing stronger, as well.


  5. Tess says:

    I met Mary when she was the speaker at our conference a few years back. It was my first conference and I was such a newbie…I remember asking a few questions and she asked me how long I’d been writing…I said not long…

    Mary smiled and said, “This is not going to make any sense to you.”

    She was right! LOL.


    • jbrayweber says:

      Wow. From where I’m sitting, that is so, so true, Tessy. Words of Wisdom. Of course, maybe had I taken her course sooner in my writing career, I wouldn’t be plucking these tarred feathers. LOL!


  6. jeff7salter says:

    You’ve got me hooked …


  7. leds says:


    […]Hook Me Baby, One More Time « MUSETRACKS[…]…


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