Hooking the reader–it’s the author’s goal from the first word to the last. This is why one of the best compliments a reader can give an author is, “I couldn’t put it down.” But how do you accomplish this goal? How do you keep the readers flipping through hundreds of pages?
Much is taught about hooking readers on the first page and the need to start with either conflict and tension or a burning question. The importance of the story’s beginning cannot be overstated. Something interesting must be dangled in front of the readers to capture their imagination so much that they simply must continue reading to find out what happens.
Many authors, however, focus so much on creating an explosive beginning that they don’t adequately connect readers to the character. They don’t give the readers a reason to care about what happens to him. They need to make that connection–to be able to empathize with the character–or they won’t care enough to flip to the second page.
How do you open the door to connecting the readers to the character? You have to get inside the character’s head.
Readers want a book to sweep them away from their own, ordinary world and into the character’s world. That’s why deep point-of-view is so popular. It lets readers feel like they’re standing next to the POV character, linked by an invisible cord that allows them to experience the character’s emotions, hear his thoughts, feel his senses.
Before the readers can feel that close to the characters, though, you, as the author, need to climb inside the point-of-view character’s head, to “ride with” him rather than report his actions as an observer from a distance. That emotional cord which links the readers to the character begins with you. As you experience what the character senses and thinks and does, draw a sensory picture of it with your words. So the character doesn’t just become angry, but fury rips through his mind. He has to will himself to relax his balled up fist to keep from punching the person who lit the anger. Your character doesn’t just walk carefully through the deep woods, but places each step so he makes no sound, senses the tension as the animal noises silence, and strains to see the retreating back of his enemy ahead of him.
Can you feel the difference? Readers may not be able to explain it, but they feel it too. When you write this way, you’ll have them hooked–not just at the beginning but through every chapter until the end, when they’ll be so enthralled that they’re ready to read your next novel.