Last weekend, a horde of creative writers descended on Eastern’s campus for the Lions in Winter Literary Festival, schmoozing in dens of highfalutin’ diction and leaving behind a snowstorm to keep you indoors—maybe long enough to write.
Two fiction writers gave craft talks to help with common issues in starting a story. Keynote Speaker Steven Graham Jones’ lecture demonstrated why writers should avoid “info dumping”: that is, stopping the story (or the blog post) to explain something to the reader, which is guaranteed to kill your momentum.
His advice? "Inclue" the reader by dispersing those important details about your alien planet throughout the story. As he put it, readers want a story, not a Wikipedia page. Like a true crusader against info dumping, he cut away from this topic after one potent example. As he displayed a KISS album cover on the screen, he said that info dumping is the difference between that and, he paused, “This.” The album art vanished and then began to reappear as puzzle pieces of the image converging. This strategy, he said, gives readers the satisfaction of filling in the blanks themselves.
Jones then turned his focus to hook lines, the first line of a story. His advice was to keep that first sentence full of voice and surprise. And, more importantly, one-up yourself in the next sentence, using a “second hook.” Jones presented a list of different hook line types to the audience and challenged them to a game—Name That Hook Line.
Try your hand at some of his examples below. Guess correctly, and you win the internet! (I’ll know if you used Google . . . )
This first line is an example of the “Portentous” category, according to Jones, using almost pretentious cleverness to engage the reader.
1. “It was a pleasure to burn.”
Our next line is a prime example of the Second Hook.
2. “124 was spiteful. Full of a baby’s venom.”
Finally, we see what Jones calls the “Preview,” but this one also fits in his “Voice” category. Can you recognize whose voice it is?
3. “All this happened, more or less”
Now go hook some readers, people. And be sure to check out Jones’ website here.