Sunday, June 11, 2006

Story Theme Ideas

I'm trying to collect a list of plot and story hook devices that always grab people. While some story forms can sometimes be exceuted in trite, cliched fashion, they are hooks for a reason.

The other day I saw a bit of a Dean Koontz interview where he described the opening plot of his recent book. A man's wife is kidnapped for ransom money, only the guy is poor, he only has 11K in the bank. When the kidnappers call, he protests that he is not a rich man, he only has 11K. The kidnappers say, we know, we don't care. They tell him to go look out the window where he sees a guy walking down the street. Still on the phone with the kidnappers, he is told to watch. The pedestrian gets shot in the head.

Koontz tells this little piece and says, I don't think a reader could put that down.

That's what I'm looking for. Hooks, setups, attention grabbing plot features that the audience can't put down. I am finding it is easier to identify these than I originally thought. Any movie or book can be encapsulated this way, in about a 25-to-50 word hook.

Get the hook, let the creation be built around it. If the hook is compelling enough, people will want to read it.


Blogger TubaOnFire said...

Dunno if these are hooks, but one thing that always works for me is the story where you know the ending (or think you do). Then you are almost forced to see how you get there. The best example I can think of were the horrible, horrible second set of Star Wars movies. How Darth Vader becomes Vader is compelling. Not so compelling to get me to see the 3rd movie, but compelling enough that if the first 2 were not bottom 15 movies all time you might have.

A similar idea is the one behind After Magrite (the play), were you start in an absurd situation. Then you figure out how you ended up there.

The second idea is choices. That is always interesting. Start with a man in the critical situation making the choice. Then you tell either how he got there or where he has to go because of the choice he made. I think that becomes engaging because if the choice is constructed well, the reader thinks - what would I do? And now they are engaged and identify with the character.

Or just plagarize some shit and make it about how you grew up and got wild, escaping your oppressive Greek/Chinesse/Indian/Gay/Hippie/Yuppie/Blind/Irish Parents.

8:56 AM  
Blogger TubaOnFire said...

OK, here is an idea. Couple in the hospital. They have just had a baby (you can see where my mind is). The nurse comes in and takes out the baby to weigh it or something. They do this procedure where they check the wristband on the baby and read out the number, then they check with the parents. So they read out "B-456-732-A", "B-456-732-A", check.

The nurse brings the baby back, 5 min later, says it is fine. She reads from the baby's wristband, "B-456-732-A" then from the husband's "B-456-732-A" and hands him the baby and say's "baby seems a little hungry" So dad gives the bundled baby to mom, who is lying in the bed. She unwraps the blanket a little and says "This is not my baby"

8:53 AM  

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