I've been thinking lately (oh no) that plotting a book is a lot like commercial fishing. You head out into these freezing, dangerous seas, cast your net, and hope you make a good haul before you capsize and everyone drowns. You need to cast your plotting net deep enough (by weighing it down with heavy characters living heavy lives) but you don't want to drop it so low you scrape the ocean floor and get it tangled up in the murk and lose the whole thing. Also, a crucial thing about a good commercial fishing net/plot is that it has a lot of hooks in it. Hooks in the sense that each chapter, and practically each sentence, has the reader interested in what happens next. I haven't read Dan Brown, but I'm guessing his books are filled with hooks (probably really blatant ones anybody can get snagged by) and that's what makes reading his stuff so "page turning". When you read work by apprentice writers, you often get bogged down in description and dialogue, and suddenly you're wondering "Why do I care about any of this?" and that's when they lose you, that's when you close the book and wander off to watch TV.

I suppose the mark of an excellent writer is not only do they keep you reading with well placed hooks, encouraging you to stay with the story and even lose yourself in the story, they do it with hooks that are so subtle you don't even know you've been caught until its too late to swim away.


mikey said...

Dan Brown has a simple formula - lots of action, short time sequences, and mini-cliff hanger endings for almost every chapter. He doesn't spend a whole lot of time on character development either, which some people prefer for the type of 'airplane paperback' reading that Dan Brown makes.

Any books you can think of with outstanding hooks? The first time I read George R. R. Martin and he killed off who I believed to be a 'main character' (with more to follow), I realized I was hooked (breaking a major fantasy genre convention in the process). Although, I'm still of the mind that one character is off limits, but still?

J.K. Rowling has fairly clumsy hooks, but I still always wanted to turn the page too. HMMM.


love your new theme dave, and i really like your getting hooked theory on books...i love a book when it really gets me hooked and i can't put it down...can't wait till WORMWOOD NEVADA!

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