hookedOn Monday night, after struggling to stay with Alice Hoffmann’s The Dovekeepers for two months, I finally gave up.  Oh, yeah, I can tell myself I’ll try it again some day but it’s unlikely to happen.  As I said in Not Just Talking, the book is historical fiction told in a narrative style with no dialog, both strikes against it given my taste in reading.  But perhaps more importantly, the story never Hooked me.  I never came to care very much about the characters and there was never an uncertain future that I just had to know about.  I’m no historian but I do know that the siege of the Masada by the Romans, which The Dovekeepers fictionalizes, ends in the mass suicide of the 960 Jews living there.  Nothing in the 299 pages I read made me anxious to know anything more.   So, last night, I started 11/22/63, Stephen King’s novel centered about the assassination of John F. Kennedy.  You might say taking on another piece of historical fiction would be a mistake, but I’ve never read a King novel that hasn’t Hooked me in the first few pages.  He has a way of quickly introducing me to likeable but flawed characters that remind me of people I know … or of myself … then subtly letting me know they are in harm’s way.   He’s also fond of killing off those characters part way through the book and knowing his good guys don’t always survive adds to the sense of dread.

In the prologue of 11/22/63, I met good-natured Jake Epping, teaching Adult Classes in writing at the local high school, a mostly thankless task.   Jake’s wife, Christy, has left him for someone she met in an AA meeting, ostensibly because Jake is incapable of showing his feelings, but in the prologue, a paper by the janitor at the high school, Harry Dunning, on the topic, A Day That Changed My Life, proves otherwise.  As he reads the tale of the day Harry’s father murdered his entire family, Jake is reduced to tears, tears his wife misses because she’s at an AA meeting with her new man.  The prologue concludes this way:  As for me, I only wish the former Christy Epping had been correct.  I wish I had been emotionally blocked, after all.  Because everything that followed – every terrible thing – flowed from those tears. 

I considered posting today on great first sentences and paragraphs that have Hooked me immediately, but it turns out I’ve already written it in Beginnings, posted a little over a year ago.   At my age, it’s a good idea to go back and check. Beginnings offered some advice on good openings by Sol Stein, author of Stein on Writing and some of my favorite openings, including one by Alice Hoffmann.   So today’s post is just one more example.  I’m Hooked.  Perfectly.  Don’t you love when that happens?

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One Comment on “Hooked”

  1. Stacy Says:

    The “hook” – it’s imperative (so I’ve been taught) that it must occur in the first page of the novel. Readers need to care about the character from the get-go. A tall order (at least for me), but good advice, I think. You don’t want potential readers to give up and put the book back on the shelf! ❤

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