- Does it have a hook?
- Is the hook fresh and interesting?
- Does it move the plot in a different direction?
- Does it have a “Shrek moment”?
Dad slapped at a mosquito. Like Marion, he was blond and gray-eyed with the finely chiseled features of a handsome man. Mosquitoes loved him.
“Time to go home.”It’s not bad, but there’s nothing about it to make the reader turn the page. Mary Buchanan, in one of her workshops, says that every scene should end with a hook that drives the reader to go on to the next scene.
- Saying good-bye (unless there’s something about the good-bye that spins the characters on their heads)
- Putting things away
- Any of the rituals of leaving (putting on clothes, shaking hands, opening and closing doors, walking away.)
Jess thrust his game of Viper towards him, then walked on to fling the front door wide. Stepping out onto the porch, Roland turned, shooting an apparently casual glance over her shoulder as he did so. There was no one and nothing on the landing. All the same, a moment earlier, he had seen – he had seen – he knew he had seen…
Of course, the reader wants to know, what has Roland seen? Mahy, right at the end of her scene, sets up a story question that propels us into the next part of the book.
- Good hooks often set up story questions – things the reader is dying to know.
- Good hooks surprise the reader.
- End the scene the opposite of how you begin it
- Look for a different motivation for the character’s behaviour
- Add what Lori Wilde calls a “Shrek Moment”. A Shrek Moment – taken from the animated film Shrek – turns a cliché on its head. Shrek is filled with these. Most of them take iconic Disney conventions and give them an ironic twist. My favourite is the morning after Shrek has rescued Princess Fiona from the dragon. They are still in the forest. She hears birds singing and spots a mother bird on its next. In a typical Disney animation, this is a cue for the heroine to burst into song. Instead, the next scene shows a frying pan full of eggs.
- What surprises can occur?
- How can I make things worse?