Book 27: Hooked, Edgerton

Hooked: Write Fiction that Grabs Readers at Page One and Never Lets Them Go
by Les Edgerton

The title pretty much says it all with this one. It’s an easy, engaging read with some great advice that all writers need to heed. Myself so much included.

What’s the advice? Hook them with the first sentence, the first paragraph, and the first page, because in today’s media market, you’re not going to get more than that.

If you’re getting decent reviews and your critique partners say your stories are good, but the readers aren’t biting and the editors and agents aren’t buying, you can bet that you’ve got a limp beginning. Trust me, I know. When I’m reading slush or critiquing manuscripts for contests, if the author doesn’t have me by the end of the first paragraph, they’re never going to.

Seem bitchy? Hyper-critical? Maybe it does, but it’s also the product of a lot of experience. A story that doesn’t grab me from the get go almost never pays off. And if yours is one of the 5% that might have, then wouldn’t it be better to write a good beginning than be mad that I didn’t read past your bad one?

Right, book review. Well, Les Edgerton talks about how to write a good beginning. It’s nothing earth-shattering, but he breaks it down well and gives lots of examples of the ten things that should be in a good beginning and how much (or how little) you need of each. What are they?

1) Inciting Incident – the threat to the protagonist’s status quo

2) Story-worthy Problem – the big inner conflict that’s significant enough and difficult enough to resolve that it needs a whole book

3) Initial Surface Problem – the simple and immediate, usually external problem that propels the character to the next scene

4) Set Up – minimal

5) Backstory – minimal

6) A Stellar First Sentence – best sentence in your book

7) Memorable Language

8) Character – Protagonist and often antagonist

9) Setting – glimpse

10) Foreshadowing – of the ending or story problem

Like I said, nothing earth-shattering, but for me, it was a helpful breakdown and a good solid look at what wasn’t right with the opening I’d spent over a month fiddling with and a great guide to how to do it better next time. Recommended for anyone struggling to get read, get bought, and get better.