The road to rejection is paved with bad beginnings. Agents and editors agree: Improper story beginnings are the single biggest barrier to publication. Why? If a novel or short story has a bad beginning, then no one will keep reading. It's just that simple. In Hooked, author Les Edgerton draws on his experience as a successful fiction writer and teacher to help you overcome the weak openings that lead to instant rejection by showing you how to successfully use the ten core components inherent to any great beginning. You'll find: Detailed instruction on how to develop your inciting incident Keys for creating a cohesive story-worthy problem Tips on how to avoid common opening gaffes like overusing backstory A rundown on basics such as opening scene length and transitions A comprehensive analysis of more than twenty great opening lines from novels and short stories Plus, you'll discover exclusive insider advice from agents and acquiring editors on what they look for in a strong opening. With Hooked, you'll have all the information you need to craft a compelling beginning that lays the foundation for an irresistible story!
It's no longer free on Amazon, but it is worth paying for if you're a writer, and you're looking to polish the opening of a story. Even if you've had creative writing lessons, I think there's pretty much bound to be something in this for you.
In Hooked, Les Edgerton shows aspiring authors how to land the big one — a full reading by an agent or editor. You bait your hook with a strong opening that pulls the reader right into the action — right where the trouble begins. You set your hook with characters whose deeds evoke sympathy and empathy, and just enough setup and back story for a fascinating setting. Then you play the reader with active scenes and dialogue that show your characters’ struggles to get out of trouble, until the reader is dying to jump into your landing net and find out how it all ends.
Edgerton’s writing style is more concise than mine — probably because he writes fast-paced stuff like short stories and screenplays — but he did help me tighten up my first foray into writing fiction, and I read him again when it was time to edit my finished novel. I enjoyed reading an opening scene he set in Fort Wayne, and I liked his conversational tone. I think you’ll like him, too — even if your writing genre is carefully crafted grocery lists — because if you love books, Les Edgerton will give you a greater appreciation for the well-turned phrases that get you Hooked.
Most writers would agree the beginning of a story is the most important part. That's where the reader gets "hooked" and continues read on or abandons the book.
In Les Edgerton's book, Hooked - Write fiction that grabs the reader at page one and never lets them go he describes in broad strokes, fine strokes and with examples how to achieve what his subtitle proclaims.
According to Edgerton, you can't write the opening until you know in significant detail who your protagonist is and what the story is about.
To do this you must first identify your hero or heroine's "storyworthy problem", that would be the problem that is just below the surface and is gradually revealed as the story unfolds. From that discovery, and Edgerton urges you to drill deep to find out what's really bugging your protagonist, comes the inciting incident.
This is where the story begins, the moment where the status quo is upset and the protagonist sets about to resolve it. The inciting incident presents the first indications of the bigger issue, the storyworthy problem.
Don't start with backstory - bringing the reader up to date on your protagonist's life, start with "trouble" - an incident presented in an action filled scene that incites your protagonist and reader to carry on to resolution.
A provocative opening sentence, an exciting inciting incident giving a glimpse at the storyworthy problem and you're on your way.
Complicated? Maybe, but Edgerton hammers it home again and again (with examples).
Hooked may very well be the most important book you'll read about writing. Edgerton writes in non-academic, easy to understand language, includes entertaining examples and even gives agents and editors the last word on the most common mistakes made in the manuscripts they see and, you guessed it, a bad beginning ranks right up there.
Edgerton's prescription on how to come up with a good story opening is actually more than that, a lot more. It's the formula for a sound story structure.
Well, Hooked didn't quite live up to that recommendation. My review meter alternated between 2 and 4 stars while I was reading.
In summary, he's got a few great ideas, but he goes over them and over them. He could have gotten his points across in about 40 pages.
He also keeps giving examples, and talking about how great they are. Some are, some aren't. For example, from "What's Not to Enjoy":
"A few days before Thanksgiving I get a terrific recipe from the Turkey Hotline Lady while Dyna and I make love."
He then says "What a superb opening! Who could possibly resist reading on?"
Me. I could resist. He gushes about a lot of these, and often tries to fit the opening to his ideas even if the match isn't that close.
Finally, the writing was often bad. Here's an example from page 207:
"The truth is, many books are getting lost in the mix, and this is largely due to the fact that there are still writers churning out a product written in a style and with a structure my son Mike would most likely describe as being 'So five minutes ago.'"
This is from a book on how to write. "The truth is" "Largely due to the fact that." Sheesh.
Most beginning writers could change this to:
"Many books fail because of their antiquated style and structure."
But, as I said, there are good ideas, and I made changes to my opening based on his suggestions. Those changes improved my book. Just be prepared for a long slog.
The author establishes the difference between a ‘story-worthy’ problem and an opening problem. There are some interesting points about plot development, and the importance of solving an initial difficulty only to find oneself in a new one.
My only slight frustration is that the books cited as examples were mostly ones I’d never heard of, many of them in the thriller or men’s fiction genres. Not unreasonable when the writer is a man, but the kind of books I enjoy writing, often don’t seem to follow this kind of pattern.
I may well dip into it again, and would recommend it to anyone starting out on fiction writing.