Wednesday, June 1, 2011

In Every Two-Timing Kiss You Will Feel......

I attended a class by Angela Eschler and she said that tension is one of the biggest things that will sell your book to the reader. 
She pointed out that if a reader picks up your book at the store, reads the back cover copy and/or inside flap, then gives your book a page or two read they should be hooked. 
They should have questions. 
There should be tension.

I've been thinking about that a lot. The hook. The questions. The query. 
The back cover copy. The elevator pitch. 

A lot of times it's already there in my manuscript but I forget to make sure it gets into 
my first few pages and my query, etc. 

Any good tips out there on 'the hook', story questions, tension?
nOOb *shakes head*


  1. I am dying to know myself. I've heard mixed messages about how "something needs to happen" in the very beginning. I think either you have to have a great story-telling voice, big action or some other mysterious or curious event at the start.
    Glad I found your blog!

  2. Tension is when someone wants something and someone else stands in their way. If your MC is thirsty and there's a line for the drinking fountain, that's tension. The longer the line and the thirstier the MC, the greater the tension.

    The opening tension in your book doesn't have to be the MAIN story conflict. Just something that will let the reader watch the MC struggle for something s/he wants.

  3. I sometimes have to remind myself that tension isn't just suspense. It is also: sexual tension, fear, knowing something terrible is coming, fighting, or anything that causes us to have an emotional reaction because we don't know what will happen. I really think the not knowing is what makes the tension.

  4. @Kristen A big welcome!

    @Robin Were you in that class? Angela used the thirsty bit as well :D I personally like to start with the inciting incident, that makes the tension at the beginning a no brainer but it's a crutch I will probably have to abandon one day.

    @Angie. That's what I keep thinking. The POWER of the question. Will they get together? Will she live? Will she ever see her family? Will he finish the quest? Will his thirst ever be satiated?

    And presented in a way that 'intrigues' or makes the hearer (agent, etc) ask questions themselves. Then they are more likely to at least read the MS to satisfy their need to have the question answered. (Then you better hope you wrote a good story because I don't think the question can carry you ;)

    Not that you have to present the story question.
    Will Rapunzel ever get out of the tower?
    But you can leave the question in their heads:
    Rapunzel, is trapped by a witch in a tower. She knows she could get out but if she takes that risk the witch might kill her.

  5. It's funny, because, in life at least, I don't like tension. And even sometimes when I'm watching a dumb sitcom, and you can see the character is being set-up for a disatrous situation, it sometimes makes me feel uncomfortable. So - really no advice for you. But I did want to buy that book "Hook" :)
    - Kim K (not logged in right now)

  6. The assignment for every sentence we write is to make the reader want/need to read the next sentence. There are a thousand ways to do that.

    The least effective thing I see over and over in critiques is people pushing the major conflict/drama onto the first page or into the first few lines... ....before I know or care about the character. Then they have to go into backstory to explain things.

    Story openings are intricate and tricky. You are introducing the protagonist (usually) and the story at the same time. A long description of the protagonist's looks, bedroom, and family, followed by a scene where she is being bullied at school won't work as well as combining these things, showing us her life instead of explaining it.

    "Sara stood at the bus stop, squinting up at the sun. She was the only one wearing long sleeves again today. There had to be some kind of makeup that would cover the bruises."

    Or "Zin's hands were shaking but he kept climbing until he couldn't hear the arguments any more, until he could see the dots of red on the horizon for himself."

  7. Kathleen, you have some great points. A reader can sense forced tension.

  8. Blue shoes? I don't remember buying or every owning blue shoes? So, why am I were blue shoes?

    I love questions. Because I am naturally curious I want to know the answers even if it takes 300 wonderfully suspenseful pages.


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