Writing: The Book Net

Everyone talks about the “hook” in a book, that little thing early in the book that gets readers to keep reading – an interesting character or a cool-sounding villain that needs defeat.  Good books have a quick, clever hook that is so unobtrusive you don’t know it’s there until too late.

Most people (so I am told) put down books if they don’t like them.

I finished The Lovely Bones. I had to renew it from the library. I didn’t have renew The Silmarillion.  Robopocalypse is the rare exception where I stopped reading it. And that’s because it was audio book and the audio book I was waiting on auto-checked-out, so I decided to listen to the book I wanted instead of the one I wasn’t enjoying.  It bothers me. I might try to read-read it instead. Maybe the tone won’t bother me so much.

Anyway – most people need a plot hook to get them invested enough they won’t put the book down (at least permanently).  This might be why I don’t think my work is up to par – I have no idea where my hooks might be. That’s a different post I need to muse over first.

I do argue there is a second piece to this. There comes a point in a book where the book slips a net around the reader. This is sometimes half-way, sometimes 2/3 of the way through.  This is the point where you can’t put down the book. If you do because you have to, you whine “boooook” to whoever (including the alarm on your phone) and grumble. Or turn the alarm off and decide eating isn’t as important as finishing the book.

Just me?

Well, I still argue it’s a real thing.

I think it’s what writers want, and might be why I love to indulge in the book’s net. When I find that point where I get distracted because I’m not getting the ending of my book.   I think authors sometimes aim to have the hook and net be essentially the same – the sooner it’s irresistible the more likely you enjoyed it and will consume more.  And depending on the book + person this is true.  But even a really, really good book might be a “ok, I will stop here, make dinner and come back” read until chapter 17/20. But chapter 16 set you up so that 17 is suddenly “OMG – I HAVE TO KNOW….!”

Let’s take a few big examples (spoiler warning on the following: Harry Potter & the Sorcerer’s Stone, The HobbitGoing Postal)

I think one of the obvious ones is HP&tSS, the hook is that is a very pitiable boy with abusive relatives who gets to be whisked away to a cool new wizarding school!  Obvious hook.  You get dangled a few juicy bits from day one of school that something is going on, but I think the net was definitely when the kids realize that Dumbledore is missing from the castle and someone is going to try to steal the stone.  It might be a bit before or during those obstacles for some people, but I think the most obvious net is that last twist “It’s all up to us, the adults are missing!”

Undoubtedly, there were fits and lulls in The Hobbit.  I remember reading it the first time and I don’t think you could have offered me anything  in this world to put that book down while I was reading about Bilbo rescuing the dwarves from the Murkwood elves. Once they reached the Lake Town I could take a breather and go refresh myself – but once Biblo went in and met Smaug – I was netted again.

Going Postal got me hooked and netted pretty early.  Partly because the world was so much fun – but mostly because as soon as Moist started making those choices that would actually improve something – I wanted him to succeed and I wanted to find out how! Besides, Prachett’s use of a Golem was one of the most creative I have ever seen in any written universe….

What other books have net-points that you remember?