Friday, July 31, 2015

Books with Hooks: The "How Will It Happen?" Hook

What pulls you into a book and keeps you riveted?

That thing, whatever it is, is a hook. It grabs you in the gut and won't let you go until you've finished reading.

One of the most common hooks is the "What will happen?" hook. It's the hook that mystery novels most frequently rely on. The "Who done it?" In other cases it's the plot that completely blows your mind because you didn't see it coming or the premise that twists reality and takes you on a speculative journey. You're glued to the pages because you're desperate to find out where the story is going.

The "What will happen?" hook can be very effective, but books don't have to have a mystery in order to have a good hook. Sometimes the reader can know from the start where the story is going but still be completely drawn in by the process of the plot. In this case the hook isn't "What will happen?" but "How will it happen?"

A superhero's origin story follows this pattern. We know she'll eventually become the superhuman fighter who saves the day. We know who the arch-villain will be. But we want to see how it happens.

Romance is also very commonly a "How will it happen?" story. We know the two leads will get together in the end. The draw of the book is not to see whether it happens but how they get there.

It was a romance that got me thinking about this second kind of hook. My agency mate Caitlyn McFarland published her first book, Soul of Smoke, this past Monday. I spent Tuesday and Wednesday reading it. (If it weren't for a great deal of self control I'd have finished it very late Tuesday night.)

The story is about a college age girl who comes across an injured dragon in human form while hiking in the Rockies. She gets swept away into the dragon's world of war and politics and magic, and in the process one of the dragons becomes magically bound to her. In order to save the world, she must choose to become bound to him in return.

There really is no question whether the human and the dragon will get together in the end. The story is a romance, and that's how a romance works. Besides, the consequences if they fail to do so are too disastrous to contemplate.

So how did this book keep me so captivated if I already knew what the outcome would be? It's because Caitlyn McFarland does a really masterful job with the "How will it happen?" hook. She puts a lot of things in the way of these two characters: personal demons, insecurities, suspicions, etc. And then she makes them work through all these stumbling blocks in interesting, compelling ways.

This is how the "How will it happen?" hook should work. And for Soul of Smoke it does work very well. I'm still enjoying the memory of my journey through the book, and I'm looking forward to the sequels.

What are some of your favorite "How will it happen?" books?

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