What Grabs Your Reader?

What Grabs Your Reader?
What Grabs Your Reader?
It is the dramatic question that grabs your reader and holds him or her. It creates a narrow path that forces the reader into suspense that won’t let go. It moves the story forward. All bestseller-kind-of novels have it.

Have you noticed that untrained eyes want you to explain everything in that first line, first paragraph. But it is the “Dramatic Question” that creates the hook.

In my novel, the Mayor’s Wife Wore Sapphires, a mystery/thriller sprinkled with social commentary, I didn’t want it to be clear what was going on. I wanted a question that would create a hook. Even when writing the “who, what, when, where, why, how,” I didn’t want it to be cut and dried. I wanted people to wonder. Here’s what I mean?

“In my country, men like him disappear in the thick of night.”

(I started in the middle of action. This man is not from the United States. This is a threatening statement about someone we don’t know.)

The guest pitched forward from the shadows in the small, but elegant room. A glint of light hit his hair, as slick and black as a crow’s feathers.

(That dark-haired man is unsavory. He wants someone to disappear. Who?)

I could have written it in a pedestrian telling way instead of an action story way&ndash(The man, Michael D’Angelo was Bolivia. His hair was black and he was intending to kill the mayor of Compton. He said, “In my country we kill guys like the mayor.” Well, it seems far away. Kind of distant. To me, it’s not intriguing.

The host didn’t look up, but smashed the day’s paper in his fleshy hands, then threw it on

the fine mahogany desk before him. A small Asian woman stood behind him, massaging his

broad caramel-colored shoulders. The masseuse balled her fist and kneaded a knot near his spine. The host gritted his teeth and groaned, his eyes drifting to the luxury yachts docked in the marina below. Then he peered into the fiery night skies that stretched endlessly southward.

“What do you intend to do?” he asked, trying to read his guest’s face, but the man’s dark, piercing eyes guarded his secrets.

(What secret does he have? How does it tie into this person he wants to get rid of?)

The guest picked up the Compton Chronicle and stared at the headline: SEPTEMBER 1, 1981&ndashCOUNCIL MEETING UPSET RUMORED.

The host flicked his hand, and the masseuse quickly left the room. He grabbed a white terry robe from the plush mauve chair behind him, pulled it on, and paused a moment, listening. Only the sloshing and squeaking of the yachts in the dark marina waters filled the silence between the two men. Now, he was sure they were completely alone.

The slightest trace of West Indian accent became audible. “You see, we must be so careful on this one. All of America, Black and White, is waiting for the next Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, John F. Kennedy. Someone who can inspire a nation.” He bit the tip off a Flora Fina cigar and spat it from his tongue. “Most poor slobs realize they’ll never be a hero, but they sure as hell want to know one they can brag about.” He rolled the cigar between his fingers, never lighting it.

“You know, they say a truly great hero comes around every twenty years or so. In the forties, you had Roosevelt. In the sixties, you had King. In the eighties, they will have me,” he chuckled. “I’ll give Black people something they never had&ndashpower. I’m not talking church talk, Black pride, all that. I’m talking about money and clout. Owning buildings. CEO’s of Fortune 500s. Rich Black folks on every block in every city.” He laughed. “Hell, they may even teach a class about me at Harvard one day!”
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