Thursday, May 10, 2012

Hooks: How many are too many?

During an online class I recently taught on plotting, one of the participants asked this question.

I am working with 2 hooks in my beginning. Are there some guidelines about multi-hooks? They tag the two action lines running through the story -- one personal, one professional. I would love some insight into it working well and also bombing spectacularly!

Gail’s response:
If you are talking about an external conflict hook and an external conflict hook, both are needed. Remember the external conflict is a plot point of action as someone tries to obtain or rid himself of something in his life. (A piece of land, a person, control, freedom, a treasure, a career or job, etc.) Internal conflict is a struggle within the character to deal with a belief, flaw, value, moral or change that affects or restricts his life in some way. Both of these conflicts are important, because one moves the plot forward and the other alters the character by necessitating growth and change.

Which conflict hook is the best to stress at the beginning of your novel depends on which is most important to your story's plot? If you can answer that question, then stress that particular conflict. But do not disregard the other conflict. Save the unused hook to bring out a little later.

When is “a little later?
Perhaps it can be the "no turning back" conflict that you need at the end of Act I? Would it have more power then? Or a little later in the story, the readers will care more about the person with the issue. Will it mean more to readers later, because they can now relate to this character who was a stranger in the first chapter and now knowing the character, they have a stake in what happens to him or her? This means readers will have an investment in the needs, wants, flaws, and vulnerability that affects the life of this character, just as in real life, they care more about issues which affect their family and friends.

When you pose conflict hooks, weigh the value of providing the conflict at that time or the benefit of holding that issue back for a while to use when it will make a greater impact on the reader. That is what will hook them and pull them into the story wanting to know what will happen next.

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