To get anywhere, you first have to know where you are going. If you don’t know how your story will end, your story will simply drag the reader along on, what will quickly seem likely to your reader, a pointless journey. You want the reader to be with your main character, moving toward a specific goal. The goal is up to you. (Examples of goals: He/She solves the mystery, finds the treasure, wins the girl, survives the disaster, achieves success, etc.)
Setting the Hook
After you’ve chosen your goal, you must let your reader know what that anticipated goal is. The fact that you have a map (outline) doesn’t help the reader at all unless the reader has some idea where your main character is going. The actual destination may not be where the character winds up, but it is the main character’s motivation to move ahead in the story. This bit of information you provide to the reader is called a hook. Its intention is to literally hook your reader into going along for the ride. Very important – you must place your hook as early in the story as possible. In a novel, it’s usually in the first 5 pages. Examples: “Your mission, Mr. Bond is to…”, “Gosh! This thing looks like a treasure map!”, “Billy…look at her neck. Two holes! I told you there’s a vampire here in Middleton!”, “Her name’s Mary Watson. She’s so beautiful, and even though I’m 5 inches shorter than she is, have a problem with body odor, can’t talk to girls and am covered with boils, I’m gonna make her mine!” (Remember, I said some goals aren’t always achieved.)
L. Stewart Hearl
Author of “Hamilton Swoop Wizard of Green Ridge”
L. Stewart Hearl is a 64-year-old genius (certified by MENSA). He is also crazy (certified by the Texas State Institute for the Bewildered). If you enjoyed his short story, check out his novel Hamilton Swoop Wizard of Green Ridge. His short stories “Invasion” and “Good” (co-written with Cash Anthony) appear in Underground Texas.