In a discussion recently, someone asked, “What story element gets you to open the book every time you see it?”
My first response was, “Only one?”
It’s almost easier to say what won’t get me to open any book (basically the three H’s, horror, humiliation, and hectoring), but it’s kind of fun to think up various tropes that have lured me in.
Humor is first. From my earliest age I have had the least amount of resistance to the prospect of laughter. I love putting down a book in a good mood. My shelves are full of books by writers who’ve made me laugh over the years–P.G. Wodehouse, Patrick Dennis, Donald Westlake, Terry Pratchett, Jane Austen, Jennifer Crusie, Georgette Heyer, Patricia Wrede, to pick at random names from a variety of times and genres.
Agency would probably come next. Under that heading is an even bigger variety than humorists: swashbuckling, disguises, spies, unlikely alliances, secret histories, magical powers.
Intrigue. Agency is the ability for the protags to do something about whatever conflict they find themselves in, and if they do it with humor and style, then I am absolutely hooked, but another addiction is situations in which what the characters know, what the author knows, and what the reader knows are all different, and revelations are cleverly worked out so that I can’t predict who will know what when, why, and how.
So what am I reading now? Sword and Chant by Blair MacGregor, which straddles the boundary between epic fantasy and sword and sorcery in interesting ways. Told in a vivid, sometimes whisperingly passionate, sometimes coldly ironic omni voice, it has culture clash, irruption of the strange into a world full ofbloody conflict, and interesting and complicated women as well as interesting and complicated men. It’s rare, after reading fantasy for more than fifty years, that I can’t predict where a story is going, but this is one.
What’s your favorite story hook, and what are you reading now?