If you didn’t participate in the SoYouThinkYouCanWrite.com conference and contest, why not? But during the conference we had a chat with some editors–Charles Griemsman (Desire), Sarah Stubbs (Historical), Piya Campana (Superromance) and Patience Bloom (Romantic Suspense)— about hooks. The full chat is here on the Harlequin Community Forums, but we’ve pulled some highlights.
Q: I want to make sure my understanding of a “hook” is the same as the editors. Would one of you give your definition of a hook.
Patience Bloom: Hook: an element of the story that grabs the reader. Often hooks fall into groups like cowboy, medical, lawman, billionaire, and wedding. The hook is essential because you want to draw the reader’s attention to a basic, appealing theme.
Charlie G.: Hi, my definition of a hook is a story theme that you build emotion and conflict around. Secret babies, military heroes, friends to lovers, bosses and secretaries are all types of hooks, but the list goes on and on and on.
Stubbs: It’s the thing that grabs your attention, and makes you as the reader want to read the story…
Q: Could each of the editors list some popular hooks for their lines?
Charlie G.: Popular themes for Desire: Billionaires & Babies, Rich Ranchers, Royalty (sometimes this one is hot, sometimes not)… Other hot hooks for Desire: Enemies to lovers, falling for the boss, terms of the will and inheritance.
Piya: Superromance makes use of many hooks: secret baby, coming home, second chance romance, forced proximity… But what we like to see is a new, unique take on a hook; a way to make it the author’s own, an opportunity to explore themes that naturally rise from hooks. Eg. in a secret baby story, there are themes of abandonment and denial, which come with their own sets of innate conflicts.
Stubbs: Historical might be a dissolute rake in need of redemption, a marriage of convenience, a sexy Highland warrior or Viking. Presents: international locations, billionaires, sheikhs and princes, secret babies, playboy tycoons.
Stubbs: I agree with Piya, certain themes bring our readers back to our books again and again, but they’re not looking for the same old thing, they want to see how our writers put their own fresh, original spin on them…
Q: In terms of Romantic Suspense, what “hooks” would you like to see and which are you finding have run their course?
Patience Bloom : For Romantic Suspense, we see a lot of law enforcement, international settings, cowboy, serial killer, westerns. I’d love to see more western/cowboy themed stories because we don’t have many of them. Also, babies are making a comeback for us. I’d love more natural disaster stories too.
Q: What would you consider a hook for Special Edition?
Charlie G.: Special Edition would have all sorts of hooks that would work. Babies, nannies, reunion romance, bad boy made good returns to his hometown. Special Edition books tend to have that home and family focus.
Q: What are examples of hooks in the love inspired suspense books?
Patience Bloom : For LIS, the hooks are similar as with HRS: murder, general suspense with romance–just with a faith element and appropriate sensuality for Love Inspired.
Q: Can setting ever be a hook, or do you look for hooks that are more tangible? Also, if the hook is in the prologue in the form of an event that took place in childhood, is it a detriment to have a difference in the voice of the prologue (more childlike) and then the first chapter from the pov as an adult?
Charlie G.: One good example of setting as a hook is forced proximity. The stranded on a desert island sort of thing. , the thing about setting as a hook is that often it doesn’t necessarily have a lot of conflict built into it. But it can definitely work.
Q: Does one present the hook in the first page or within say the first chapter? Is there a template timing wise?
Stubbs: The important thing for me in the first chapter is getting swept up by a strong character – that would make me want to read on!
Piya : I wouldn’t say there’s a template for timing at all, but a loose guideline might be to introduce your hook in the first chapter, and expand on its associated themes in the rest of the manuscript. But really, it depends on what works for your story.
Charlie G.: I like for things to really get moving in the opening chapter, and that often involves revealing at least a bit about the hook/hooks.
There were more questions–and answers!–but go to the Forum for the full scoop! Meanwhile, keep reading and writing!
You can also follow these editors on Twitter where they are active to varying degrees – @CharlieGrim, @SarahHistorical, @PatienceBloom and @Piya Campana
Happy Reading–and writing!