“Excuse Me, Your Hair Is On Fire!” (And 3 Other Things You Should Always Be Thinking About When Writing)
Thank you to D.C. McGannon for sharing this awesome post also found on his blog!
Here are three things you should always keep in mind while you are writing.
And, oh by the way…
Your hair is on fire!
1. The Hook.
In the first chapter of every book, there should be a hook. Something that grabs you. Rips you into the world of the pages and doesn’t let go. It can be a quote, a newspaper headline, an action, a statistic, a question. It can be embedded in dialogue or a stand all by itself.
It gives insight into the unfolding conflict. It may be the conflict itself.
It’s what makes you want to read on. It’s the attention-grabber. It leads to the next chapter or scene (especially if you end your chapters with hooks).
It’s what makes you want to listen to your favorite song over and over again. (Don’t you want your readers to read your books over and over again too?)
*Speaking of favorite songs. Let’s break for a fun activity… See if you can recognize these famous song hooks and their artists (answers below):
“Hook me baby one more time!”
“Hook it, just hook it. Hook it, just hook it. Ow!”
“I still haven’t hooked what I’m looking for…”
“Purple hook, purple hook!”
“The hooks, they are a changin’.”
“Shake, rattle, and hook.”
“I’m comfortably hooked.”
“I hooked it through the grapevine!”
I was going to use Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face” and Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” for this activity, but it just didn’t seem appropriate. Agree?
*OK, Back to our program…
Any book worth its salt employs the hook.
I’m not going to teach you how to write a hook in this post (that will be a post all by itself), but you MUST always be thinking about your hook when writing.
Oh, and do you smell that?! It smells like…
It smells like conflict!
Who wants to read about the guy who has everything going his way all the time, and lives happily ever after. BLAH!!!
Boring. Forget it!
We want conflict, writer. The juice. The fire. The stuff of legend. The stuff that brings the legend to her knees!
Conflict is pain, discomfort, struggle. It’s what your characters must go through, and in the beginning of a book it’s usually pretty bumpy. Bumpy is good. Bumpy is real!
Nobody navigates conflict easily. Nobody! I don’t care if the duck looks like its gliding across the water effortlessly. What you don’t see is that under the water, those little webbed feet are fighting the water at a hundred-miles-an-hour!
Show your readers what is happening under the water!
Conflict sets the story in motion. Whether it’s internal conflict (struggles with morality, desire, belief and so on) or external conflict (man vs. man, nature, society, destiny, etc.), conflict reigns!
We relate to conflict. It’s real. We experience conflict, both good and bad, and so it’s believable. We want to discover how this character is going to respond or react to the conflict, so we tune in.
I believe every strong character suffers the weight of both internal and external conflict. This layered complexity draws us in closely and whispers to our soul.
When you are writing, remember, your hair is on fire! Bring on the conflict!!
3. The Tension (Emotion).
Conflict creates tension.
If conflict raises the question, tension keeps us wondering what the answer is.
Tension (emotion) keeps us engaged until resolution. Just like our characters, we will experience the emotion as well.
Make me laugh. Make me cry. Make me angry. Make me pump my fist. Make me scream. Make me say, “I TOLD you that was going to happen!”
Whether positive or negative, human emotion drives a story. Your readership is addicted to it. And like the hook and the conflict, tension needs to rise from the beginning. Keep your finger on that pulse and keep it tight until you are ready to release it in your resolution.
So, excuse me, your hair is on fire…
Will the fire consume you? Will the fire go out? Do you even feel the heat yet? Is that person standing next to you going to catch fire?
As for writing, I hope your fire burns brightly and keeps getting hotter!