Hooked! (Mary Strand)

This month at YA Outside the Lines, we’re talking about hooks: whatever they mean to us.

As a kid, I spent my summers hooked on sports, reading, and building forts in the woods. It's less clear to me what I cared about the rest of the year.

(Note: Come to think of it, I would still like to build forts in the woods, and why am I not making that happen?)

As a teen, I was mostly hooked on sports, but not always in the same pure-of-heart sense. With basketball, yes: I shot hoops in the driveway every chance I got, so much so that my dad complained about the constant thump-thump-thump he could hear from anywhere inside the house. But at that point I was serious (as opposed to, often, joyful) about tennis. I played twice a day, for five hours a day, every day in the summer. And why? Sometimes I wonder. Tennis was a job to me. In fact, my mom said at one point that I didn't need to bother getting a job, because that was my (self-inflicted) job.

At this point in my life, hooks have more to do with the books and songs I write, and they're very different. In a song, I think of the hook as the thing that connects the listener to it. "Let It Be:" there's a hook. Or the long guitar intro to the Eagles' "Hotel California": a very different hook. If I don't have a hook, I don't like the song.

With books, hooks either draw readers in or keep them reading, especially when it's late at night and they know they need to go to bed, but the last page of a chapter (hopefully, every chapter) jet-propels them into the next chapter. To me, it's a "BANG." Something major almost always happens on the last page, preferably the last line, of every chapter of my books. If I'm really acing it, it'll also happen on the last line of every scene within a chapter.

It doesn't literally need to be a bang, though. At a minimum, something just has to surprise the point-of-view character at that moment, leaving him or her reeling. The reader wants to know HOW the character will react, but the sneaky author doesn't reveal that until a few paragraphs into the next chapter. Bye-bye, good night's sleep.

A friend who used to be the first reader on all of my manuscripts would often text me something like this: "YOU NEVER LET ME STOP READING AT THE END OF A CHAPTER, DAMN IT!"

I loved those notes. I'm sure they were meant to be sweet. ha ha.

But is there a hook to this blog? Why no. I'm too hooked on the thought of building a fort in the woods right now to come up with a decent one.

Mary Strand is the author of Pride, Prejudice, and Push-Up Bras and three other novels in the Bennet Sisters YA series. You can find out more about her books and music at marystrand.com.


  1. YES--the hook is a moment of surprise for a POV character. Because if described right, it's a surprise for the reader, too.

  2. Ah, forts. I grew up on 187 acres in Maine. My sisters and I built forts, lean-tos and secret hiding places quite often. I like this month's 'hook'

    1. Lean-tos! Yes! Our forts were often more like lean-tos, due to an utter lack of architectural ability, not to mention hammers and nails. :-)


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