Humans Like Stories
Here’s A Story
When I was working in theatre, I met a kid who was very quiet, and had very little hair. He was always on the fringes of the group during rehearsals, and when some of the other actors were getting chummy and making memories together, a couple of young women got worried about him. They tried to talk to him more, to draw him into the group. He stayed aloof, though he was always gracious about saying “No,” with his body or his continued silence.
One of the more proactive social butterflies came and talked to me about this guy.
“I’m worried that he feels left out,” she explained. She wanted to know what I thought we needed to do to make him feel loved and safe. I laughed, and told the young woman that this kid was getting exactly what he wanted out of the experience.
“He isn’t lonely,” I said. She frowned at me, as if I had presented a riddle, and wandered away to socialize with more sympathetic folk.
I didn’t exactly handle this guy with kid gloves, but I never pushed him the way I pushed the others. I peel open actors like Kinder eggs, when I work them on stage, but this guy had “Caution” tape wrapped up all over his energy. I never prodded at him, and when the show closed, he smiled at me, said, “Thank you,” and vanished from the face of the earth. He wasn’t a theatre kid; I think he had never acted before in his life, and was unlikely to act again. No one knew what he did, or where he came from. He was like one of those enigmatic cowboys that comes into a sleepy town for two weeks and then vanishes in the dead of night, never to be seen again.
Well, Who Was He?
Probably a moral drug dealer. Yes, they exist. He had an independent, mature energy, though he couldn’t be older than twenty-four at the time. He clearly had sophisticated social skills, and he operated under a closed, autonomous energy system (those are very interesting, but I’m not going to explain them to you right now). There was no darkness in his system, which, given his age and looks, was remarkable (that would take hours to explain, but suffice it to say that he was a good person, as evidenced by the clear light in his aura).
That Was Fascinating, Now Tell Me About Writing
The burning need to know what happens next, to know who people really are on the inside, and what will happen to them, is the driving factor behind most leisure reading. Here is an easy way to create that need in your readers.
Make A Promise
Open your first paragraph with a hook. Here are some samples:
Jethro was the last alien Deidre could ever imagine losing her virginity to, let alone seducing over the course of months.
Kate was a murderer, but she had only ever killed once, and that had been a long time ago on a different world.
Gorm was only a janitor, but he was destined to destroy the order of Caruvian space pirates single-handedly.
Well, I Can’t Use Any Of Those Examples
My one-time actor was a mystery character; he had a lot of secrets. They were the kind of secrets that never get told at all; those are the best kind. Your characters have secrets; those secrets drive the plot, and the development of those characters. You need to know those secrets, and you need to strategically exploit them in a way that whets the reader’s interest. So, go to your work in progress, and select a character. Write down their secret. Now, go to the very beginning of your work, and on the first page, layer a hint of that secret, a promise, a sniff, an allusion, into the first part of the writing.
Explode The Relationship
Now that you have placed a hint into your opening, take a second character from your work. Find their secret; write it down for yourself. Go to your opening page, and contrast this second character’s secret with the first secret you put in. It should look something a little like this:
Jethro was the last alien Deidre could ever imagine losing her virginity to, let alone seducing over the course of months. Just before the two met, Jethro took a vow to eat the next sexual partner he took on, and, unluckily for Deidre, he didn’t meet any luscious partners in the months between his vow and her moment of disrobing.
Won’t That Change My Whole Story?
Maybe. It doesn’t need to. Once you have planted your hook, the reader will be desperate to know what happens. Will she be eaten? Will Jethro break his vow? What will happen to him if he does? What happens next?
Successfully Antagonistic Relationships Create The Strongest Hooks
When you plant a story in your plot, and let the reader know the boundaries of the story (Diedre is going to seduce Jethro; he has sworn to eat his next partner), the reader will read on, desperate to find out the fulfillment of that setup. Take two pre-existing characters in your work, find mysterious folds in their lives, and pit them against each other in your opening. Your readers will love it.
You’ve been reading a blog about writing by Victor Poole. To find out if Ajalia’s master turns out to be like her father, start with book one, The Slave from the East. Thanks for visiting!