Tuesday, June 09, 2009

THE WRITE WHISPER: By hook or by crook

At some stage in the not too distant future, I'm going to do a post about hook themes in category romance.
Today, I'm talking about hooks of a different nature: how to hook your reader and keep them turning the pages. Or not as the case may be in my following example.
I'm a huge fan of the Keifer Sutherland show '24'.
Have watched every series religiously.
And while I don't find Keifer remotely sexy, there's just something about his sheer dogged alpha-ness (with loads of underlying vulnerability) that makes him more attractive with each series.
In the current series, there has been the usual non stop spills and thrills, with every episode ending on a fabulous hook.
It's what I try to do at the end of each chapter: give the reader a reason, a darn good one if you can, to keep turning the pages in the desperate need to discover what happens next.
The writers of 24 are good at doing this and I'm usually left sitting on the edge of my seat at the end of an episode, waiting for the next.
Then we arrive at this week's episode.
Jack, the hero, has been infected with a bioweapon that has no cure, he will die.
Tony, a lifelong friend and co worker for many of the early series, was a baddie at the start of this series, then we discovered he was working undercover with secret organisation of goodies to capture baddies.
We are so entrenched in this belief, as the writers have done a stellar job in showing us through his actions how good he is.
We're hooked on his character, hooked on his motivations.
Which makes the abrupt about-face of this character so unbelievable.
At the end of last night's episode, Tony has stolen a bio weapon canister, tried to blow up and kill loads of FBI agents (after killing with his bare hands one of the main FBI characters the week before) and is standing over Jack, watching him die by depriving him of a treatment.
All this time, because of what the show's writers achieved in entrenching Tony's goodness into me, I keep expecting him to be doing all this to try and get the ultimate baddies.
But having him watch his close friend potentially die isn't a good hook.
If I wasn't such a fan of the show, it would've lost me, because Tony's abrupt change has me questioning the believability of everything he has done in the show.
His motivations are now questionable.
I have doubts, big doubts, as to plausibility.
And the writers have thus lost me.
In our writing, we can't afford to do this.
I guess it all stems back to my initial post in this series about motivation, and making your characters motivation real and believable.
So keeping your readers turning the pages is great.
But in your efforts to use brilliant hooks, be careful not to lose readers along the way.
For we may want to know what happens next, but only if we care enough about the characters and believe in them.


Donna Caubarreaux said...

While I don't watch 24, you made a great presentation about the show. There are very few TV shows that end on a hook. Most end with everything tied up. So, unless you like the show, there is no important reason to tune in to the next show. You can miss a show, no big deal.
Your comments were enlightening.

Lacey Devlin said...

Fabulous post Nic! Thanks so much for that :)