What is your story about – and why should your reader care?
When we write for ourselves, with no plans of sharing it with anyone else, we might not care about things like 3-act structure, keeping readers interested, or fully developed characters. And that’s ok! The first and most important rule of writing is to write for the joy.
You might have a whole bookshelf full of notebooks of stories that are just for you, and those stories are incredibly valuable. They are the keepsakes of how you got started. Never throw them away!!
But there might come a day when you’re ready to learn more about storytelling, or you want to share one of your stories with your friends, or you have to write a story for a class assignment. That is the point when you have to think about how stories work.
The good stories, the ones that sell, the ones we all talk about, all follow certain guidelines. These stories are much more than writing for the joy. They are stories that mean something.
So how do you know if you wrote a story that means something?
Well, it starts with something called a HOOK. A hook is when we get our readers to ask “what is going to happen?” That’s how you know they care about your character and the problem he/she needs to solve. The story is starting to mean something to your reader.
Where does the hook go?
The beginning of every story should present character, setting, and conflict. Your hook needs to be nestled in there, somewhere in the opening pages, causing the reader to want to know more.
In Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, readers are hooked by the fact the main character lives beneath a staircase and is living a pretty boring life until a letter arrives, inviting him to study magic at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
This is a hook because we want to know how come a seemingly ordinary boy gets to go study magic.
The hook in Percy Jackson and the Olympians — The Lightning Thief is plunked right down in the opening sentence: “Look, I didn’t want to be a half-blood. If you’re reading this because you think you might be one, my advice is: close this book right now. Believe whatever lie your mom or dad told you about your birth, and try to lead a normal life. Being a half-blood is dangerous. It’s scary. Most if the time, it gets you killed in painful, nasty ways.”
We want to know who is speaking, what a half-blood is, and why it is so dangerous. We will definitely read on to get those questions answered.
Ask yourself “What is my story about?”
Look through all your Discovery notes so far and think about what story is coming through.
Who is your main character?
What is your setting?
What is the conflict?
Then pull them together to explain what your story is about:
For example: Two teens find a stranded wolf pup in Callahorn Kingdom, a land where all wolves had been exterminated. They decide to raise the pup on their own but must keep it a secret from the Wolf Hunters, an army on a mission to obliterate wolves from Callahorn.
The story’s hook is based on the above information: We want to know how these two teens will succeed in protecting a wolf pup from an entire army bent on killing wolves.
This is how you get started on figuring out your story’s hook. You may put your hook into an actual word-for-word sentence, like it was written in Percy Jackson or you may build it throughout a whole scene, like it was done in Harry Potter.
This week, play around with different hooks, making sure you include the main character, setting, and the conflict. Bring them all together in one or two sentences to explain what your story is about. Don’t worry yet how you will actually put it into your story. We’ll come to that step a little bit later!
Also, if you’re still discovering your story and writing down your ideas, no problem. Keep jottig down your ideas as they come!
Any questions? Leave them in the comment box below!
Have a writerly week!