Monday, April 15, 2013

3 Tips for Hooking Readers by Missy Tippens

Missy Tippens, here. This was an article that I posted at the Savvy Authors site earlier in the month. I thought I'd share it with you today--plus I tried to correct the errors I made in the original! (Note to self: don't ever proof something late at night.)

How to Hook Your Reader:

3 Tips for Using POV and Emotion to Your Advantage

by Missy Tippens

We have many choices to make in writing our stories. First person or third? One character’s point of view (POV) or more? And if we choose more than one, whose story is it—who’s the protagonist? Should we switch POV back and forth or be a POV purist and only switch between scenes? And if that’s not enough to worry about, then we have to figure out how on earth to start the story. Show a little of the protagonist’s ordinary world or dump him right into action at the point of change?

What’s a writer to do? For some, the many options can be paralyzing.

First, let me say there isn’t a right or wrong way. You must decide what works best for your voice and for your story. And if you’re targeting a particular publisher, I’d suggest researching to find out whether they have a preference.

That said, and with apologies to anglers everywhere, I thought I’d offer some tips on what has worked for me and for how to use POV and reader emotion to your advantage. [Side note: there are several types of POV. In this post, I'm just talking about what I use and what appeals to me personally.]

1. Hook the Reader—by making the reader care.

Make your protagonist sympathetic. When a reader opens the first page, she needs to immediately feel something. Michael Hauge has a great video series with Chris Vogler, The Hero’s Two Journeys, where Hauge talks about ways to create reader empathy. He gives several methods and says you should employ at least two. I like to try to do this in the first pages. Often, once I complete the first draft, I go back and enhance this on revisions.

Sure, we love a character who shows growth in a story. But before you can show the faults, it’s good to show something—even if it’s only a peek or a hint—that lets the reader know this is a good and worthy protagonist.

So, how can we make our reader feel the emotion of the story and care about this character? How can we make that reader put him/herself in the protagonist’s place? We have to make our character someone the reader can relate to.

--Put your character in a bad situation or a situation that’s unfair. We all root for someone who is a victim or underdog. We’ve all been the victim or the underdog at one time, so we’ll understand this character. You can even go one step further and put the protagonist in some kind of jeopardy—actual danger or maybe just at risk of losing something like a job or failing a challenge.

--Make your character a good person and likable. Show her being kind or generous or dutiful. Show her helping others, or at least trying to. Then the reader will want to see her succeed.

--Make your character strong or special in some way. Think about a character you’ve loved from a book on your keeper shelf. Was she especially brave, smart, funny, strong, snarky? Did she have special powers or abilities? Even if we can’t totally relate to someone with magical powers, we at least wish we could experience it and want to go along for the ride. Even if we’re not particularly funny or clever, we usually wish we could be witty and quick with comebacks. So we, as readers, are hooked. We want to know what else this protagonist might do.

2. Reel Her In—by making the reader get attached.

When asked by a new writer to explain what point of view is, I say it’s like strapping a camera on the forehead and planting a “bug” in the brain of your POV character. The reader only sees or hears what the POV character sees or hears. And the reader can only experience thoughts that come from that POV character. As a reader, I find a closer (or deeper) POV tends to help me form a bond with a character. This allows me to “become” the character. And we as authors want this for our stories.

Revealing a character’s thoughts and emotions lets the reader know what the character wants and why. The reader becomes attached if they know the character’s goal and discover what is motivating him.

I also feel that staying in one POV for a full scene gives the reader more chance to get to know and become attached to the character. I usually only switch POV between scenes unless I have an especially important moment in the plot where I want the reader to have immediate feedback from both main characters. In that case, where I do switch, I think it’s important to use a good transition so that there’s a smooth change. Nothing yanks a reader out of a story quicker than confusing him. You don’t want to lose your reader, because you still need to…

3. Catch Her in the Net—by giving her something to root for.

If a reader is hooked into the story and bonded with the character, what is it going to take to keep the reader reading?

We need the reader to be rooting for the protagonist. Which means we must provide something to root for. We have to introduce the story question.

Will he win the girl? Will she save the world? Will they solve the case before someone else gets killed?

In order to put this question in the reader’s mind as soon as possible, we have to get right to the meat of the story.

--Avoid backstory dumps.
--Avoid too much description.
--Don’t stay too long in the ordinary world.
--Move the character right into a challenge, showing the situation she will have to deal with.
--And show why this goal is so important to the character (motivation). The reader has to know that this character is committed, but also worry that she will never be able to succeed (conflict).

If you show the story question, then your reader will be dying to know what happens to this character he likes and relates to, this character that he now cares so much about. You’ll have your reader reeled in and securely locked in the story until The End.

Let's talk HOOKS today. How do you catch your reader? As a reader, what catches you and reels you in?

If you'd like to be entered to win a copy of my RITA® finalist book, A House Full of Hope, please leave a comment letting me know you want to be entered. You can also read excerpts at my website,

Also! Don't forget the April Love Inspired books are on the shelf now! Look who's all there together!

Pepper Basham shared this on her FB page
Georgia Sweethearts
Mending the Doctor's Heart
The Bride Wore Spurs


Helen Gray said...

This is information that needs another read to absorb fully.

Thanks for the clear way you've outlined it.

Coffee's brewing!


Playground Monitor said...

Great info! Like Helen, I need to read it a couple more times so it can fully sink in.

And speaking of Helen, thanks for putting on the coffee. I've started the kettle for tea. And I fixed a batch of raisin bran muffins. They're tasty and uhm... useful too. *grin*

And it's back to the short story. I need to unpaint myself from a corner. Somehow I made my heroine all whiny and that ain't good.


Cindy W. said...

Another wonderful "KEEPER" post. Thank you Missy.

I would love to be entered into your giveaway. Thank you for the opportunity.

Smiles & Blessings,
Cindy W.

countrybear52 AT yahoo DOT com

Ruth Logan Herne said...

I love the pic of the three books together!!!!!


Missy, catching fish is a great analogy for so many things...

Catching a reader...

Or reeling in a mate, LOL!

Lovely, just lovely. And how's your Rita finaling Tiara, dearheart???? Do not allow it to tarnish.

We spit-shine that sucker for all its worth, my friend!

Marilyn, SMACK HER. I once did that to change up my style of heroine... and I got a letter from editor that said "WHAT ARE YOU DOING????? I WANT TO SLAP THIS WOMAN."


This interchange (and I'm not exaggerating) made me realize that snarky authors write snarky-friendly heroines and if an editor likes your snarky-friendly pull-em-up-by-the-bootstraps heroines, don't mess with success.

Lesson learned!

Another interesting point: Readers are drawn to heroines that reflect themselves a lot of the time.

If you step back and examine why you love your favorite books, it's often because those books speak to YOU, the person. Not YOU, the reader.

That's why you may love a work by an author that's not their literary best-rated, but the story touched a nerve in YOU.

I try to step away from that when judging contests because it truly colors your thought process.

Raisin bran muffins: love 'em!!!

Jenny Blake said...

Ok for a reader who isn't sure what exactly a protagonist is can someone explain it? I have seen it a lot but never really understood the meaning.

Not sure what hooks get me in. I like a beleivable heroine. The ones that are vain or self centered I tend to get annoyed with. (nothing like wanting to slap the heroine or knock some sense into them.) I guess thats also a good hook having the reader really dislike a character and wanting to physically hit them into next week and I am not a violent person but some characters really make me feel that way.

Jenny Blake said...

Ps been putting aside things to bring to the states (nothing like packing early!) I have several packets of tim tams to bring so am sharing today.

Missy Tippens said...

Helen, good morning! I just love seeing you here with a pot of coffee on for us. Thank you! I'll have mine with hazelnut creamer and Truvia, please.


Missy Tippens said...

LOL, Marilyn! I appreciate the muffins this morning. :)

Good luck with that whiny heroine. I've had one or two of those myself. Just be sure to motivate her really well. :)

Missy Tippens said...

Thanks, Cindy! I've got you entered.

Janet Dean said...

Wonderful, print-worthy tips to hook readers, Missy! Will consider each one with the story I'm working on.

I'm also hooked by voice, that indefinable something that makes me love the writers' work.

Thanks for the coffee, Helen, and raisin bran muffins, Marilyn! Is this the recipe that the batter can be used for like six weeks? I love those! Give your whiny heroine a muffin. That'll put a smile on her face.

Jenny, explain tim tams, please. The protagonist is the hero or heroine, the character the story is most about.


Missy Tippens said...

LOL, Ruthy! I almost told Marilyn to slap that character, that I'm sure you would want her to!!! OMGosh, I'm laughing so hard about how I nearly channeled you this morning.

Goodness, maybe I should be alarmed and frightened!


Missy Tippens said...

LOL, Jenny! You've been thinking like Ruthy, too. :)

The protagonist is the hero or heroine. The main character. You may also see the term antagonist sometime. That's the person who is acting against the main character making it difficult for him/her to achieve his/her goal.

I'm really looking forward to your visit! Debby and Patti Jo and I are already making plans!

Missy Tippens said...

Janet, I've never heard of a batter that lasts that long! You could keep it in the fridge and make a fresh batch of muffins every few days. YUM!

Rose said...


This GREAT advice comes at a good time for me. I'm going to start editing my Speedbo manuscript today.

Debra E. Marvin said...

I'm working on a blog post about this subject which I look at as 'the baggage' the protag has to cart with them through that first scene. Reader empathy comes from knowing what it's like to lug a heartache around. The size of baggage can vary but it needs to be there.

Missy Tippens said...

Rose, I'm glad the timing is good! I hope it'll help others who finished a book in Speedbo.

Missy Tippens said...

Debra, that's a great way to explain it! And a great way to get reader empathy.

When will your post go up? I'd love to read it.

Glynna Kaye said...

Great tips, Ms. Tippens! I love a book that grabs my attention from the get-go, plants a question in my mind that I have to know the answer to and paints a character I'm willing to journey with until the last page. So much depends on those opening lines and paragraphs to hook a reader for the duration of the book. It's truly a fine art!

Jeanne T said...

Missy, I loved this post. As I think about my opening scenes for my new story, I am stuck on a couple aspects for my hero. Your suggestions are helpful in giving me some direction to think on for him.

Like Helen said, I definitely need to read through this post again. It's a keeper, for sure and for certain.

Bridgett Henson said...

Great post, Missy. And congratulations on the Rita final.

Marilyn, I once had a character that cried at every little thing. Ruthy's right. Slap her. I once had to find and replace “tears” and added an action to reach her goal.

I don't like whinny heroines and I don't like wishy-washy heroes. If he loves her, he loves her. The conflict should never be a lack of desire on his part, at least in his POV.
IMHO I'm a finicky fish :)

Janet Dean said...

Missy, the batter uses raisin bran cereal and buttermilk. I've made a batch for Thanksgiving weekend and it'll last right through our family's Christmas visit. They're delicious. Not overly sweet. Must get the recipe in the Yankee Belle Café.


Mary Connealy said...

I'm starting a book right now and I usually hook the beginning by using an action scene.
I'm not doing that this time, so far and I am mainly making that choice because I'm sure I'm just being too predictable.
(It's early in the book yet, I may change my mind)
But it's a fun and scary (to me) way to start a book, with the hero and heroine seeing each other, reacting to each other strongly, then of course 'The Trouble' which will keep them apart.

I usually re-write the beginning a whole bunch of times, so we'll see if I stick with this.

Having said that, the hook of making a reader care about the character, that's so important and now I'm worrying about that.
Will the reader care if there is no life-and-death jeopardy?

Mary Connealy said...

JENNY I don't see that this is answered.
PROTAGONIST--a ten dollar word for HERO (or heroine). The lead character in your book. There can be two.
The opposite ANTAGONIST is the villain but that can also be the hero or heroine because the antagonist is who causes the trouble and you don't necessarily need to be a villain to be a trouble maker. I've had several snippy little heroines who were big time troublemakers in their own charming way.

But big picture
Protagonist = Hero (Luke Skywalker)
Antagonist = Villain (Darth Vader)

Mary Connealy said...

PROTAGONIST---And now I looked closer and see that Missy and Janet already answered this. :)

Missy Tippens said...

I've been thinking on Debra's comment while washing dishes (oh, joy).

What is some of the baggage your characters have at the beginning of your story? Anyone want to share??


Missy Tippens said...

Good morning, Glynna!

Jeanne, do you want to share the problem you're having with your hero? Maybe we can give feedback.

Missy Tippens said...

Bridgett, I agree. I sometimes write constantly-crying heroines on the first draft and then have to cut, cut, cut! I just had to do that on a proposal last week. I thought, "What on earth?? It's only chapters two and three and she's already crying!" LOL

Missy Tippens said...

Janet, let me know as soon as you find the recipe! I'll share it on one of my Fridays.

Missy Tippens said...

Mary, I think trying a different type of beginning is a great idea! I'm sure you'll make it sing, and the reader will be dying to go along for the ride.

Sherida Stewart said...

Missy, this is great....and again, just what I need!

I'm editing my Speedbo project and planning to send ten pages to Tina soon for a critique. (Thank you, Tina!) At first my characters were too nice, so I added a quick temper to the hero and put that in the first scene. After reading your post, I need to go back and add traits to make him LIKEABLE, not just a guy in a bad mood. He IS trying to keep a promise to his sister, so I can work with that. You've given me great ideas on what to add.

I already have a SIGNED-BY-THE-AUTHOR copy of A House Full of Hope....LOVE IT and know why it is a RITA finalist! Thank you!

Thanks for the coffee, Helen, the tea and muffins, Marilyn, and Jenny, glad your wrist is better....what are tim tams?

Hope all of Seekerville has a great week!

Myra Johnson said...

Wonderful tips, Missy! When I think about creating a main character readers will care about, the word that comes to mind is vulnerability. You talked about putting the character in jeopardy, and Debra used the idea of "baggage"--both aspects that can make a character vulnerable.

My most problematic character was Natalie, heroine in One Imperfect Christmas. She's definitely the type Ruthy would want to slap around--LOL! In fact, that's what I heard from several readers.

However, a great many readers really related to Natalie's inner struggles and understood how circumstances could have made her react the way she did.

So there really is a fine line between making your characters likable because of their flaws and vulnerability, and making them so flawed that readers just can't relate or care.

Elizabeth Alexandre said...

Love Michael Hauge's development of sympathetic characters.

Susan Anne Mason said...

Hey Missy,

Great topic! And so important!

Baggage?? Let's see. One of my heroines has lots of baggage from her overly critical father, plus she's just be evicted from her apartment.

Another has a whole lot of repressed guilt from her younger brother's accidental death.

Isn't it fun to torture our poor characters? LOL.

Don't enter me in the draw as I have read your fabulous book and I have the other three pictured!

Have a good one!


kaybee said...

This is helpful, Missy.
Right now I'm going with the "hero/heroine meet on first page in a crisis" dynamic, in both "Trail" and its sequel. It's a safe and accepted way to start. I may experiment more after I'm published. My heroine is vulnerable -- she's a penniless widow with no family who's signed on to be a wagon train cook and have a new start in the West. My hero is an Irishman who fled "green and hurting Ireland" on a murder charge. They knew each other briefly in Ohio. She's horrified to find him as the trail scout, and he's horrified -- and guilty -- and intrigued to see her again. I do have scenes from his POV, but I don't head hop. I have enough trouble being in one character's head -- and my own.
Missy, I am reading "Georgia Sweethearts" at home, nice job.
I sent out my computer to be fixed and will probably not have it back for a month. Good thing we found the warrantee! I am depending on the laptop. libraries and "the kindness of strangers." (I do a good "Blanche," if you're ever in the area.)
Question. This is merely academic because I'm trying to control my gall bladder and my new diabetes by diet, but...When Helen brews coffee and Playground Monitor brings muffins, do they actually brew and bake? Or is it totally virtual?
Kathy Bailey
Pre-pubbed in New Hampshire

Elaine Manders said...

Missy, great post. Hooking readers is the first thing writers should learn and one of the hardest. When I first started my prairie WIP, my syrupy sweet little heroine sat at her dining table planning how to save the world (with God's help, of course). By the 3rd chapter, she'd met the hero and decided she'd rather save him than the world. She became a lot less syrupy in the process. The first 2 chapters were totally useless. Rewrite, rewrite, rewrite. His problems became her problems and she became more believable.

Yes, I'd like a chance to win your book, a Rita finalist, are you kidding?

I need my coffee strong today, Helen.

Missy Tippens said...

Sherida, I'm glad it helped. I think you'll be if you show he's simply frustrated by the fact something is preventing him from keeping his promise, then you'll be fine. :)

Piper Huguley said...

Missy, a great post and very timely (*waving at Debra Marvin*) for me as I am revising. Thanks!

In earlier drafts, I put in too much of the baggage for my hero and then people told me that there was too much backstory and to cut it. I think I've cut too much as now readers feel distant from him, as opposed to falling in love with him, so I have to dribble it back in somehow. Thanks for the ideas!


Missy Tippens said...

Myra, it is a fine line. I think the key is making sure the likable part comes first. Or at least a Blake Snyder Save the Cat moment. :)

Missy Tippens said...

Elizabeth, yes. I love that video! I watch it about once a year just to remind myself of his helpful tips.

Missy Tippens said...

Sue, it sounds like you have some great baggage for your characters! Sounds like you've definitely gotten the knack for torturing them. LOL

Thanks so much for reading!

pol said...

Hi Missy, Like the post today, lot of info there to help even a reader learn more about the stories.
I like to know lot about the main character early and what is happening to them in the story, helps to clarify as you read further. You are so right about readers feeling deeply for character that has problems to solve...If he or she were perfect the story would not be read so quickly.
thanks for sharing with us.
Paula O

Missy Tippens said...

Kathy B., it sounds like you have a nice set up for your characters to be sympathetic! Sounds like a great story.

Never fear on the food. Your health issues are safe with us. Totally virtual, although I bet Helen is really making coffee when she says she is! :)

Good luck with the computer! Man, that must be so frustrating.

Pepper said...

Fantastic post, Missy.
You should teach this as a class! :-)
i love making the reader care - and I try to use humor or uncertainty (peril) to do that (or both).

And deep POV? My favorite!!!

Missy Tippens said...

Elaine, your comment made me smile. I've had to cut early chapters more than once! I think it just takes a little bit to get into the story and to know the characters. My main problem has been having them sit around and chit-chat! I'm finally learning to avoid that. :)

I've got you entered for the giveaway.

Missy Tippens said...

Piper, that's totally understandable. It's good to have that feedback from readers! I've learned that a quick thought of short sentence can go a long way toward letting us know the backstory, the baggage. Sometimes all you need to do is hint at it. People will know there's hurt there and keep reading to find out what it is.

Missy Tippens said...

Paula, that's a great way you said that--readers feel deeply about a character who has a problem to solve. Thanks for input as a reader!

Missy Tippens said...

Pepper, humor and peril work really well! I know it sucks me right in. I LOVE a really funny or clever heroine. Since I'm the type who always thinks well after the fact what clever things I wish I had said, a story like that allows me to feel brave and funny and oh so witty! :)

Playground Monitor said...

TIM TAMS! OMG! I love them. A couple years ago Pepperidge Farm and Target partnered to put them on the shelf for a very limited engagement.

I've un-whinied my heroine. She's a strong, divorced woman who started her own business after the divorce. I agree with Ruthie that readers like a heroine who reflect themselves. I'm divorced but not whiny (well, not most of the time) and I like to think I'm strong. Like her, I have big trust issues. Somehow I let a line or two slip in and the whinefest began. I slapped her as Ruthie suggested, asked if she wanted cheese with that whine, and voila, we're back on the right track.

Now I gotta go get ready to go to the darned day job. At least it's only half a day. But dang, it's Monday. And all the clients are usually in a tizzy on Monday because of all the junk that's happened over the weekend. *sigh*

Later gaters,

Debby Giusti said...

Great info, Missy. Thanks!

I bought your book and Tina's at Walmart. I already have Janet's.

Ruthy's book should be released soon.

Such good stories to look forward to reading!

Debby Giusti said...

Tim Tams?

Natalie Monk said...

Great advice! I sent in a last-minute entry to the Duel on the Delta contest last night and reviewed my entry with your tips in mind. Helped so much! Thanks, Missy!!

Missy Tippens said...

Marilyn, good for you! I hope you have a smooth day at the day job.

Missy Tippens said...

Debby, thanks for getting our books! I planned to send you one but...well, I'm still behind on all that type stuff!

Missy Tippens said...

Natalie, good for you!!! Best of luck in the contest! Hope you win some of their cute jewelry! (if they still give those cute dueling pistols)

Pam Hillman said...

Ruthy said: Readers are drawn to heroines that reflect themselves a lot of the time....

Which sent me on a wild research tangent on Mr. Google. The results of my search may or may not become a Seeker blog post in the near future... lol

Julie Lessman said...

LOVE this post, Missy!! I soooo appreciate 1-2-3 point-type blogs because I like it broken down for me, and you did that nicely.

Good description for POV -- the camera strapped to your POV character's head!! I remember somebody arguing with me about how I could not say something like "she slapped an auburn strand of hair our of her face" because the heroine wouldn't describe her hair as auburn, but I wanted to get her description in right off the bat, so I rationalized the heroine could see the color of the strand of hair she was slapping out of her eyes, so it was okay. But I relented and deleted the "auburn." :)

LOVE, LOVE, LOVE seeing yours, Tina's and Janet's books lined up together -- VERY COOL!!!


Kav said...

Love this, Missy. As a reader I want to be emotionally engaged from the get go and that can mean anything from bonding with the hero/heroine through laughter, angst or anything in between. I love it when an author lets me into the h/h's head right away -- bam, I'm feeling what they are feeling and don't know why and I can't wait to find out! (if that makes any sense!)


I'm trying to send out a contest entry (gulp) and I can't arrange my header to have both the title and the page number. I can set up the title just fine but then, when I go to select page numbers it erases the title and replaces it with page numbers. :-( I have Word 2010...anyone have any clue as to what I'm doing wrong?

Playground Monitor said...

For those who asked about Tim Tams, here ya go.


Playground Monitor said...

Kav, I hate that change to Word! But here's the remedy. At least it's MY remedy.

Insert your page number at the top left. Then in front of it, put your title. Hit the space bar until the number is positioned all the way to the right. That should get both items in your header just fine.


Kav said...

Why that's positively diabolical, Marilyn. Thank you. I'll give that a try when I get home. :-)

Elaine Manders said...


I have Word 10. This is what I do.

Insert Header at left, tab to right, flush.

Click on Insert again, choose Page number

Choose Current Position/Plain number (even though the example shows it at left, it'll put number 1 where the cursor is.)

Connie Queen said...

Missy, you make it sound so simple.
I have a hard time seeing weak pov in my own stories, but can spot it easily in books and judging contests.

And I know some of authors mean for the characters to come off differently than they actually do.

I laughed when you said your heroine crying too much. I feel the emotion when I write the scene which causes me to them over react. When I pick it up later, I think, "Wow, what a cry baby."

Kav said...

Thanks Elaine. Now I have two options...which is always good since I'm a technodunce. Love Seekerville to bits. :-)

Missy Tippens said...

Pam, you've got us curious now! LOL

Debra E. Marvin said...

Missy, I'll pop the link up on FB when the post comes around. Your questions were so timely.

And waving to Piper. She is a brave girl. I did a short crit for her once and she is brave enough to let me slap her wrists now and then because her writing is so worth the time for me to offer the experience of being just a little farther ahead on the journey. She has an awesome story series going but I'll keep mum on it as she's out on the contest circuit and wants feedback for a submission request! YAY PIPER!

AS YOU KNOW because she's a Contest DIVA!!!

Missy Tippens said...

LOL, Julie. Honestly, that's one of my pet peeves to have a heroine thinking of her trim figure or her long, silky blonde (or auburn ;)) hair. It sounds conceited. :) Or maybe I'm just jealous.


Missy Tippens said...

Kav, that makes perfect sense! And I agree.

I have Office for Mac, and it's older, so I have no idea about your heading problem. I'm glad you're entering, though!!! Best of luck!

And now I'm going off to Marilyn's link to check out Tim-tams!

Missy Tippens said...

Ooooh, Tim-tams sound amazing!

Missy Tippens said...

Connie, I think we can really learn a lot from judging contests. I even posted on that a couple of years ago--about how I can see problems in other writing but miss it in mine (a plank in my own eye!) :)

Tina Radcliffe said...

Every now and again I pull all my keepers off the shelf and read the first paragraph. It really helps you to realize WHY you were hooked. I do this occasionally with the chapter three hook too.

Tina Radcliffe said...

Kav, enter the page number then get out. Go back in and double click in the header and type it in.

Tina Radcliffe said...

Elaine's way of course is the real way. Mine is the cheater way. For those who don't read instructions for their microwave either.

Tina Radcliffe said...

We are getting way of course, but that is a neat link..TimTams.

RUTHY!!! The article mentions Loblaws grocery. OH MY I haven't heard of Loblaws since I was a kid.

Tina Radcliffe said...

off course, not of course.

Jackie said...

Hi Missy,

I think I'm going to rewrite the beginning of my story, again. Ha!

Now I'm thinking I don't have a strong enough hook to pull a reader into the story.

Thanks so much!
Jackie L.

Missy Tippens said...

Tina, of course we get off course when we talk about malted chocolate cookies! :)

Jackie, if you want to pass you opening by us, feel free. :)

CatMom said...

Thank You Missy!! Not only is this an excellent post (and a keeper) but you just helped me have an "Ah ha!" moment---toward the end of your post, in the section about motivation, it suddenly came to me what my heroine's REAL motivation is (in my WIP)---so thank you. ~ Enjoy the Pecan Pie I brought this afternoon, along with Georgia Peanut Brittle candy (don't break a tooth though, LOL). Hugs, Patti Jo p.s. Am LOVING your newest book, GEORGIA SWEETHEARTS!! :)

CatMom said...

P.P.S. Been meaning to tell you that your new profile photo is GREAT!! You look so lovely! ~ PJ

Jenny Blake said...

Missy is Patty Jo the same as Patty Hall Smith?

Timtams are an aussie Icon. chocolate covered cookies with a layer of chocolate icing in the middle and very morish (dont worry bringing some for you to try).
Thanks for the explanation. Funny I know what the antagonist was just didn't have a real defination of the other one.

Debra E. Marvin said...

Loblaws. me too. My gosh.
of course and off course.

Jenny Blake said...

Woops it was Janet who first asked about tim tams.

They now have a few varieties. I love the ones with the caramel centre.
I have several packets to bring for friends (may have to stock up on a few more!)
Good think I didn't mention the cherry ripes!

Jenny Blake said...

Thanks also Mary for the explanation.

Oh Myra I was one of those wanting to slap Natalie. I still remember her well. But there have been others. I have actually wanted a villian (not hero) to come to a nasty death That was in Carla Capshaws book the Gladiator really wanted one person to be fed to the lions or hung drawn and quarterd but being LI they cant do that.

Michelle Fidler said...

Please enter me in the drawing for your book.

Never heard of Tim Tams. Coffee and muffins sounds good. I'm hungry anyway and I'm going to have some beef & bean burritos soon (microwave ones from El Monterey). I add cheese and sour cream.

Missy Tippens said...

Patti Jo, thank you for your kind words and for your offer of pecan pie and brittle! :)

Missy Tippens said...

Jenny, the Patti who'll join us for lunch is Catmom. :) But you just reminded me to contact Patti Hall as well! Thanks. I should have already emailed her. Will go do now...

Jenny Blake said...

Thanks Missy I did email Patty earlier but hadn't heard. (she was the one wanting me to have a naked dog at Varsity).

Missy Tippens said...

Michelle, I've got you entered!

Your burritos sound good! I'm hungry too.

Jeanne T said...

Missy--it's been a busy day. But all of them are this time of year.

Okay, I'll share and try not to share toooo much back story. :) This is Women's Fiction. My hero's goal is to make sure he has enough money to provide for his family. His growing up years were very lean and his family suffered because of it. He finds out his boss is retiring and he thinks he's in line to be promoted to the job. He finds out he's going to be considered along with another guy. I've got what I hope is good tension later in the book, but for the beginning, I am trying to figure out how to up stakes and tension right off the bat.

Does that give you enough to start with? Kids get home in a bit, so I'm going to get to work while I have a few minutes. :)

Missy Tippens said...

Jeanne, maybe you could start off with him feeling hopeful for the first time in a long time. He feels he he's sure to get that promotion, which will assure his family can get something they need asap (maybe their car has died or roof is leaking). Then bam, you hit him with the fact another man is also up for the promotion--a man who is perhaps a favorite of the owner of the company, or someone who has beaten him out of a promotion before, or maybe just a nemesis from high school or something.

I think you can show some nice tension and angst.

Missy Tippens said...

If you haven't been watching the news, please be in prayer for those in Boston where there have been some bomb explosions--at end of Marathon and at JFK library.

At least two dead. So very scary and sad.

Piper Huguley said...


The slaps on the wrist are strengthening me for what is ahead of me--not the editor but,



Praying for all in Boston,

Piper Huguley said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dianna Shuford said...

Well, dog-gone-it. Blogger ate my reply!

I’ll try again. Here goes- even though I can’t remember everything I said the first time around.

Hi, Missy! And Seekers!!! I’ve been trying to get back in the swing of things and visiting my online friends. I definitely need more barriers around my day job…

Great points about POV. It always helps to stop and look at your story from your reader’s POV. (Bet that’s one POV often forgotten about.) Readers connecting to the character’s we create keep those pages turning and burrows our stories into the reader’s hearts. Thanks for the reminders. Now, I need to go back and review ways to make these stronger in my current WIP.

Of course, I’d love to read your book, Missy.

**raising my hand** Me, Me, Me…

Yes, please enter me for the drawing.

Donna said...

Great post today, Missy! One of my favorite topics is how to make characters empathetic (instead of pathetic, lol). Deep POV is a close second.

Thank you again for the phone chat! You really helped me figure out some problems and I took notes!!

Please enter me. :)

Jeanne T said...

Thanks, Missy. I can see how that could help. :)

Yes, I'm praying for Boston. So tragic.

Cara Lynn James said...

Great reminders, Missy! There sure are a lot of things to remember! Creating reader sympathy is so important, but not always easy to do. Or maybe it's just me!!!

Tina Radcliffe said...


Missy Tippens said...

Hey, Dianna!! Glad to see you back. I've got you entered!

Missy Tippens said...

Donna, I really enjoyed our chat! I hope I didn't talk your ear off. :)

I've got you entered!

Dianna Shuford said...

Thanks, Tina. I've missed being here. You ladies are so much fun!

Missy Tippens said...

Jeanne, I hope it made a little sense and maybe helped. I tend to let my mind fly off and have a grand time brainstorming--and it may not apply at all to another person's story. :)

Hey, Cara!

Missy Tippens said...

Patti Jo, thank you on the new photo!

Walt Mussell said...

Missy, I recently showed the opening to one of my Japan WIPs to a published author that asked to see it. ONe of her suggestions was for me to move my start to page 3. It wasn't that page 1 wasn't harrowing (it was), but that page 3 offered the opportunity even for someone not interested in Japan to identify immediately with the heroine.

I've been thinking that over for a month now.

It sounds like point 1 in your post.

Missy Tippens said...

That's interesting, Walt. It could be that you could just shift it a little. Show that bit of characterization that's on page 3 and then go back to page 1 stuff.

Mary Preston said...

If I have a vested interested in the characters I want to follow the story through.

I'd love a copy of " A House Full of Hope" thank you.


Edwina said...


Thanks for such an informative article - so much good information!

I would love to read "A House Full of Hope."

Sarah said...

I would love to win!!!
Thanks for the giveaway and God Bless!!!
Sarah Richmond

Amber said...

If I can identify with or relate to a character, I'm immediately hooked! Please enter me to win a copy of your book. Thanks!


Sara Ella said...

Hi, Missy! Thanks for these great tips! I get really hooked into a story that has me asking questions from the beginning. Lately my genre of choice is dystopian YA romance. I really like all the different societies authors are creating that have me asking things like "Why can't she choose whom she will marry?" or "Why doesn't she just leave and live separate from the government?"

Whatever holds the character in his/her disfigured, upside down world is ultimately what holds me there too.

When I write, I try to start off with a scenario that will have a reader wondering what is going on. Since that is what draws me into the next chapter, it's usually what I use in my attempt at novel writing.

Oh, and I would love to be entered in the giveaway. Thanks!

Marianne Barkman said...

You got the hook right, as always, Missy!!!!! Love your post and wish all authors of fiction novels took head. Of course, then I'd have a harder time with all the novels I'd have on my TNT pile!