I was asked by Chrys Fey of the Insecure Writer’s Group to submit an article for their May Newsletter, but there was a catch. The piece had be be between 200-400 words, making it much more challenging than a 2,000 word piece. This is what I came up with. What do you guys think?
Hooking readers is both art and science. To capture their attention, distill your message to its essence. You have one sentence to evoke curiosity, and you do it by provoking questions.
- In eight seconds I will be dead.
- When I die, my race dies with me.
- That perfect, effortless smile would be the end of me.
Why will the narrator be dead in eight seconds? Why will this person’s race die with them? Why will a smile be the end of the narrator?
We don’t know, but we desperately want to. Lay your sentences like bricks, each building on the last.
- In eight seconds I will be dead. I pull the ripcord.
- When I die, my race dies with me. I am the last.
- That perfect, effortless smile would be the end of me. I bet it had been the end of every woman Brett had ever given it to.
Now we have a little context, but it only begs more questions. Why does this person have a parachute? Are they falling from a plane? Why is this person the last of their race? Who is Brett, and why does he have such an effect on the point of view character?
The third sentence is another brick. Lay it with care. Answer a question. Raise three more. Then lay another brick. Answer two questions. Ask three more.
- In eight seconds I will be dead. I pull the ripcord. Nothing happens.
- When I die, my race dies with me. I am the last. Fitting, as I was the first.
- That perfect, effortless smile would be the end of me. I bet it had been the end of every woman Brett had ever given it to. Of course, it wasn’t the smile I was interested in.
Pull the reader forward, always craving more understanding. Then at the story’s end, with the same care you placed the first brick, place the last. Answer the big question.
Subtly whisper three more.
Man, that’s good. Inspiring as always, Chris. Thanks.
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Good stuff, Chris! What I appreciate about this is that it formalizes what I’ve occasionally done instinctively, but didn’t realize exactly what I was doing, besides just “drawing the reader in”.
Now I can stop before each sentence and ask myself what “this brick” will do.
Follow-up question: Did you apply this technique when writing THIS article? Or does it only apply to certain types of writing?
Hi Chris I am a new reader to your books and I have to say that I really enjoy them. I have not bought a complete series on amazon for about 2 years and that was the Mark Tufo and Kevin Hearne books Zombie Fallout and The Iron Druid. I enjoyed getting lost in the Deathless series. (My wallet not so much). I had to reactivate my Audible account. I am just getting into the Great Pack and I am looking forward to reading (listening to) many more books from you. Thanks for the hard work from a new fan.