What I think makes a story great

By Andy Nalewski

“Nope. Nope. NOPE! I’m fuckin’ done. Need a minute. Christ almighty. Jesus. Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck. FUCK!”

These are the exact words I said when finishing the first chapter of a new book.

The character is put in an awful, suspenseful situation, only to have the narrator abandon her in the next chapter and focus on another person. It’s torture. It’s despicable. It’s evil.

And it’s the best kind of writing.

This is the art of the hook, where an author keeps the reader profoundly interested, concerned, and terrified for the character that was developed well and the situation he puts them in. 

A good hook is needed for the start of a book. This author, Dean Koontz, has mastered this art, and got me interested with the first paragraph, which was remarkably short, and anything but sweet.

Darkness is what makes a hook; happiness and glee make everything seem alright. And they can be used to build up to a damning ending to the thought. But just starting off with a joyous phrase and keeping it going makes the reader bored.

When I read, I want conflict. It doesn’t have to be - and often times shouldn't - describing the main conflict in the book. I need to have my world explained to me as it is built in my mind.

A couple ravaged by emptiness and without connection. They travel on a dangerous road, still lingering on the failed attempt to find love with each other. They spin out, crash, down a hill into  a river. The husband is knocked out, the wife is desperate to drag him out, but the water is heavy on his body, and is sinking the car.

And then, we are looking at the world through the eyes of a trucker who doesn’t fully know what is happening. 

Why? Why does the author torture us like this? Why am I subjected to this maddening shift in the perspective of the world?

It’s for suspense and interest.

No one would bother to read on if everything was hunky-dory. But greater still is the effect of moving from a cacophony of conflict to the silence of something else.

Books exist to evoke emotion and strife in our hearts. To torture a loving character is to torture the reader. The job of the author.

Never have I ever been bored with a book when there is a hook. But always have I been interested when my emotions are bested.