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Friday, January 20, 2012

Guest Blogger LOIS WINSTON talks about "The Happy Hooker"


The Happy Hooker
Guest Blogger, Author Lois Winston

No, this is not about the world’s oldest profession. It’s about opening hooks. Do you know how few seconds an author has to hook an agent, an editor, or a reader? Precious few. Attention spans just aren’t what they used to me. If you don’t hook a reader (and by readers, I mean agents, editors, and the reading public) with the first page of your book, chances are, she won’t read the second page.

Too many writers make the mistake of opening their books with long passages of description and back-story. So not a good idea! Especially when you open with a description of the weather. There’s a reason Snoopy kept getting all those rejection letters whenever he submitted his novel that opened with, “It was a dark and stormy night…”

It’s also the reason that a well known annual writing contest for the worst opening lines is named for Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, the actual author of that famous line. It appeared in his 1830 novel Paul Clifford. Ever read the complete opening sentence? Most people haven’t.

Here it is:
It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents--except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.

READ THE WHOLE ARTICLE AND FIND OUT MORE ABOUT LOIS BY CLICKING ON THE JANUARY 2012 ISSUE OF THE WRITERS' TRICKS OF THE TRADE E-ZINE. SHARE THIS WITH YOUR WRITER FRIENDS.

11 comments:

  1. Lois, I didn't know "It was a dark and stormy night" came from a book. What a surprise. You could get with an opening like that in 1830, before they had TV, DVDs, Facebook and Twitter, LOL. Sometimes, I wish I could go back in time and experience that luxury of time. But back to the excerpt, even though it's about the weather, there's a lot of tension in it. Words like "violent," "agitating," and "struggled" promise something ominous is about to happen. My 2 cents. :)

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  2. I suppose so, Linsey, but it's become the hallmark of how not to start a book. I think this is greatly due to the fact that it's a very poorly written sentence.

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  3. I think Snoopy needs to take a few writing classes.

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    1. But Snoopy's little dog house didn't get internet and his wi-fi depended on Charlie Brown paying the bill.

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  4. Hey, it IS atmospheric.

    I love a great hook(er).

    The Les Edgerton book HOOKED has brilliant stuff to say on writing your beginning.

    Thanks for the post, Lois!

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    1. Thanks, Jenny. Maybe we should have Jeff suggest HOOKED to Snoopy?

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  5. You're right, Lois. Any book on writing (or agent, for that matter) says you have to begin with a great hook. Attention spans are so much shorter these days that most people won't keep reading to see where the story goes unless they're hooked right away.

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  6. Thanks to Lois and everyone who has posted comments for keeping the discussion going.

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