Joe’s Sandwich: A Hook

I’ve recently started a initial trial of Amazon Kindle Unlimited, and have figured out how to use KU to get audiobooks (you have to download the e-book and then add narration to it–not difficult, but a bit counter intuitive.)

So I’ve tried a number of audiobooks and since I am not paying per book, I feel very little obligation to finish something just because I’ve downloaded it. (Not that I tend to feel much of that anyway–I am brutal with media. You’ve got a very small window to make me love you.)

It seems to me that there are a lot of authors out there who are writing a publishing fiction who have no clear idea how to begin a story. To give an example of what I mean, let’s talk about Joe and the sandwich.

Joe has been working since very early in the morning, and he gets to lunch late because of a problem with the production line.  But eventually he gets outside into the parking lot with a crisp new ten dollar bill in his hand, just to see the lunch wagon slam down the side window and drive off.

That is a story opening. Joe wants a sandwich.  We want Joe to get his sandwich, because he’s earned it.  He’s been working hard.  He’s got the money to pay for it.  He’s got every reason to expect he can get it, and then something happens–through no fault of his own–that denies him what he wants.

We are now emotionally invested in the story.  We know what it’s like to be hungry.  We want to keep reading because we want a resolution for Joe in the form of a nice cheese and roast beef on marble rye.

Now, that seems really simple, but there are a lot of ways to screw it up.  Suppose Joe has been slacking all morning, hiding from the boss in the back warehouse, and missed the roach coach because he fell asleep on a pallet.  Do we care?  Not so much.  Instead we’re thinking, “ha ha, ya lazy schlub, that’s what ya get for sleeping on the job.”

Or suppose that he doesn’t have any money, and got to the truck on time but they wouldn’t give him credit because he hasn’t yet paid off the credit he got two weeks ago.  Again, it’s harder to be sympathetic to Joe–it’s kind of his own fault he’s going hungry.

Maybe Joe gets to the parking lot and Leo’s Deli On Wheels has left, but Manuel’s Burrito Truck is still idling there.  Sure, Joe’s going to be disappointed that he can’t get the roast beef sandwich he was hoping for, but if he’s really hungry he’ll settle for the burrito.

Then again, suppose that Joe has already had his lunch, and he just wants to talk to Leo because Leo grew up in Ankeny, Iowa and Joe wants to know if that’s a good place to go on his vacation next month.  That is a goal, sure, but it’s not an urgent one and besides there are other ways Joe can find what he wants to know.

Making me care what happens next isn’t rocket science.  Give me somebody to care about, something that I want that person to get, and a logical reason why they might not get it. That’s all.

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About MishaBurnett

I am the author of "Catskinner's Book", a science fiction novel available on Amazon Kindle. http://www.amazon.com/dp/B008MPNBNS
This entry was posted in Artists That I Admire, On Writing and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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