Is the Hook of a Great Novel Actually Criminal?

White Collar, Leverage, Squad 38, The Sting.  The premise of these shows/films is fundamentally illegal.  You're frowned on by the government when you lie to people + take their money, & ultimately, people hate you.  Yet the premise of these shows/films is equally crucial to pulling off the best sting in the book: the beginning.

does anybody know what "con" means?

The term "con" has floated off with its own grammatical uses: conning, for instance, which is the negative act of scamming people out of their belongings.  But remarkably, the actual term is confidenceConfidence.  & that's vital to the whole game because ordinarily people won't give you their possessions if they don't trust you.  Before you can get anything, you must first gain their confidence.

If your reader is like me, he's going to be sceptical about a new book.  The blurb on the back might pique his interest, but it's the first page that is the real clincher.  In English grammar we call it a "hook," which is telling: we're trying to snag the reader & keep him on the line for the rest of the story. But a fish doesn't like being on the hook & a painful intro won't enamour the reader to you at all.

instead of writing a hook, think of it as a confidence game

"it is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a large fortune must be in want of a wife."

We all recognize this opening line (& if you don't were you born under a rock??), but look at how perfect it is!  With brevity it combines


OMNISCIENCE  |  The author doesn't just settle at saying she knows this to be true - she states it as everybody who is anybody knows this is true!  You're an absolutely dolt if you don't & none of us want to be taken as a dolt so we immediately take her at her word.

DESIRE  |  If she is in the market, what girl in her right mind would say no to a:: an unattached young man + b:: significant quantities of money?  The author casually tosses both of these gems into the first line of her novel & suddenly you want those things right now so you keep reading.

HUMOUR  |  We like funny people.  When people laugh + tell jokes, we open up to listen.  When people yell + make arguments, we close down.  Which tactic is more likely to gain confidence?  That's right.  Humour.

You are the confidence artist.  Writing is your medium.  The reader is your mark.  In a world brimming over with published works, why should the reader give you his attention?  Why should he be interested in your story?  Why does he think it will have any benefit to him?


xoxo, jenny

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