Sunday, April 4, 2010

Hook Your Readers

Advertising copywriters insist that a good poster capture the attention of a commuter dashing to catch the 8:05 train. That’s a tough chore—almost as tough as grabbing a reader in the first 30 words of your short story.

The grabber is the narrative hook, an intriguing opener that makes the story impossible to put down. I’ve started scrutinizing the openers from flash fiction sites that depend on a feed into your mailbox and a click-through to their site. These teasers must make you hit their link or they’ve failed. Check these out from Everyday Weirdness (

• “Faith Stands Guard” by Deborah A. Blood: “Holy shit, Faith,” Todd cried, hopping awkwardly to avoid the small terrier. “Do you have to lay there?” He continued toward the kitchen, shouting over his shoulder, “I’m gonna end up stepping on your dog!”...
• “A Note on Spiderlings” by Brenda Stokes: Not all spiders eat their young. Take this from one who knows. I love my spiderlings. All hundreds. I ’d never dream of eating them. It’s barbaric! But sometimes, exceptions must be made....
• “Scuttle” by Milo J Fowler: True Story: I never thought buying a gallon of milk would prove to be fatal. He came at us like the Marshmallow Man, pasty but hairy and flushed and sweaty, gargling and huffing, staring straight through us as he staggered, both arms flailing out...
• “Service” by M.E. Ray: The second person that showed up was carrying a shotgun. He had two Labs with him and looked like he’d been hunting. He made eye contact from the far side of the smoking crater and we both looked down at the cooling metallic teardrop embedded below...

Or these, from Short Story Library (

• “Wild Weather” by David McVey: There are two ways that I could tell this story. I could start at the beginning and keep going until the story ends. That, of course, is how it happened. But it’s not how I experienced it nor how I remember it. In particular, it’s not how I remember Kathy and she, after all, is the...
• “I Will Not Eat Cookies” by Amy Corbin: Recently, I gave all my size 4 clothing to Goodwill. This was very hard to do. I’d been holding on to those things for 10 years. I told myself I was not giving up on being size 4. It was just that these clothes were no longer in style, and when I got down to...

On of my favorite story feeds comes from Big Jewel ( This week’s lead features “New Old Wives Tales” by Whitney Collins: "If someone dies on Good Friday, they go directly to heaven. If someone dies on Fat Tuesday, they probably had diabetes. If your nose itches, a fool is about to kiss you. If your crotch itches, blame Derek. Be sure to wait an hour after eating before dumpster diving. If you carry an acorn in your pocket, good [...]"

C’mon, tell me that most of these leads make you want to shut out the world and read on.
Our reading culture is changing because of multi-purposing distractions. The TV is going, the iPod is playing, the cell phone is dinging new messages, you’re trying to Facebook a comment on your netbook—all simultaneously—and some presumptuous writer wants your attention? Get serious!

Darrin Miller states in, “Writing that all too important hook…has to be done in this business in order to make it…. People are busy, too busy to waste their time reading a bad book or short. We have to make them want to read and not stop reading until it’s over, and this has to be done at the beginning. All the greats have done it.

“Stephen King's It would have been impossible to put down. ‘The terror, which would not end for another twenty-eight years—if it did ever end—began, so far as I know or can tell, with a boat made from a sheet of newspaper floating down a gutter swollen with rain.’

“Or H. P. Lovecraft’s, Thing On the Doorstep. ‘It is true that I have sent six bullets through the head of my best friend, and yet I hope to show by this statement that I am not his murderer.’

“And Dean Koontz, who is a master of the craft and of writing that single line, which would effortlessly snag his readers. The opener from Strangers, ‘Domimick Corvaisis went to sleep under a light wool blanket and a crisp white sheet, sprawled alone in the bed, but he woke elsewhere—in the darkness at the back of the large foyer closet, behind concealing coats and jackets.’”

When you feel your story is finished, go back and isolate the lead. Will it tease, intrigue, horrify, invite or cause the reader’s blood pressure to rise? Good. Now make sure the story’s last paragraph—even the last line—is just as memorable.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Meet You at Fictionwise

I’m pleased that Fictionwise is now carrying Cruising the Green of Second Avenue in addition to Wild Child Publishing. Thanks, Faith, for keeping the ball rolling.

Look for it at Simply key the title into the search engine at the top left of the site. You’ll even find an excerpt from “Frank Cassidy and the Canarsie Chick.” By the way, someone has figured out the book takes 100-141 minutes to read. Christmas is coming. Make a reader happy with a gift, and an author happy with a royalty.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Magic of Childhood

I left a mistaken impression on my blogsite recently that Written Word Magazine ( was nearing defunction. It’s very much alive, but its Web site was functioning oddly on my PC. I’d wait interminably, wanting to go out for a long walk or a short beer, until the graphics loaded. But—huzzah!—there in its archived June 2008 issue was “The Wishing Pool.”

This has been one of my favorite stories, written in January of ’06. Why? My childhood days were ominous, filled with omens, portents and symbols. The child matures when the signs come together. I put together a few of these signs and secret codes in “The Wishing Pool.” I’m happy, not only for the sale, but because the youngsters in the story nibbled at my heart. Perhaps I once was “Otto,” making bets on when the first snowfall would close school and wondering when my father would come home from his business travels.

My own childhood days in a small Oregon town were filled with tokens as powerful as having a Lone Ranger pistol ring. They were as mysterious as the X-ray machine at the shoe store where we watched our toes wiggle while the salesman sought out our Buster Browns. We believed in 1947 that the dead cat we found in the bushes had died violently. Why else would its mouth have turned into that horrible rictus? It was poisoned—and this was our nexus of fear: To touch it would be death for us too.

We were in awe of tramps, like the one who reputedly lived in the willow grove by the Northern Pacific tracks and carried a shotgun loaded with bacon rind. Yes, bacon rind, my brother, Chuck, explained: This was so he wouldn’t actually kill you when you were shot for intruding. We knew tramps left secret messages on our houses, messages hidden so carefully that only other gypsy tramp initiates could tell whether this house or that one would offer a welcome.

Every event, every glance, every crack in the sidewalk was filled with meaning. Dogma was established by my friends in second grade. “If you step on a crack, you’ll break your mother’s back.” And, there was World War II revisionism, “No, no, if you step on a crack you’ll break Tojo’s back!” And each of us guaranteed a little good luck by stamping on a Lucky Strike pack.

Oh, and in regard to “The Wishing Pool,” sometimes kids know everything and understand very little. You know this. You were a kid once, weren’t you?

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

A Nice Review of Cruising

Coffee Time Romance has just given Cruising the Green of Second Avenue a nice “three cups” review. They say, “The life and times of Jake is [sic] once again fodder for a fascinating look into bachelorhood in the ‘60s. New York City is at the heart of it all for Jake and his friends. Their stories prove that at some point we all need to grow up and move on. Their roaring twenties have up and gone, and now Jake is finally ready to be an adult. But did he wait too long to realize that there can be life beyond the Big Apple? The quick wit and humor are back with this second installment, and worth the read.

Read it all at --and then buy a copy at Help support a writer who needs periodic maintenance and accolades.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Hello everyone, I'm a new member of the Wild Child Publishing family. My name is Maggi Coleman and my crime/thriller Casey's Luck is coming soon. I live in Sydney, Australia with my husband and the two cats that rule us. Looking forward to chatting and reading your great stories.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008


Hello everyone, I would like to introduce myself to the Wild Child Publishing family. My name is Christopher Tran and my debut novel Tiffany's Twisted will soon be coming out. Working with M.E. Ellis, fellow author and my editor, has taught me alot about the writing craft. Her wisdom and efficiency were invaluable. I am a 25 year old novelist, and write in the suspense/thriller genre. Thank you for the invite to your wonderful team. I appreciate all you have done for me.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Nigh Spring and Full Worm waxing

Two days until the Vernal Equinox (Mun Geri) and also the Full Worm Moon. The fogs are heavy and deep. 'Tis Werewolf Weather -Beware!