When Do You Know You’re Hooked?

bait-2026318_1280Happy Thursday the 12th to you.

I’m in good spirits this week because my favorite TV shows are finally back on. I’m a huge fan of CWs The Flash and Arrow and they just started back this week (as opposed to two weeks ago, when most networks started).

My daughter decided to binge watch Arrow on Netflix in anticipation of its return, and I told her to give it through episode 3, because I remember being uncertain about whether I’d continue with the series until episode 3. It was at that point that I said, yep, this one is a keeper. Interestingly, as I watched episode 3 with her, I realized that is the first time Felicity Smoak appears (hmmm). She is such an integral part of the show now, that I hadn’t realized she wasn’t in the first couple of episodes.

For the TV show This is Us, which premiered last year, I fell in love on episode 1, and at the “twist” at the end of the episode, I knew. I just knew. It’s such a good, heartfelt, show that it had that quality immediately for me.

Switching over to books, some I’ve loved from the first pages (The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe when I was child; Room or Maze Runner more recently), while others I had to slog through until a switch hit, and I was all in. Don’t hate me, but I really didn’t like the first Harry Potter book. I read it after it was quite popular through books and film, thought, meh, and didn’t give it a whole lot of thought. But as I constantly saw stuff about them, I thought, I have to be missing something. So, around book seven’s release, I decided I would read the entire series. I was deep inside the Chamber of Secrets, reading the section that explained the Tom Marvolo Riddle anagram, when I said to myself, “Oh, I kinda get it.”  And for a while, book 3 was my favorite, because it was the first time I relly looked forward going in, and was truly delighted. And now the rest is history. While I love the series, the first books are still my least favorite.

While the hook for me can happen later, I have to see something intersting at the outset to stick with a show or a book long enough for the hook to grab me and reel me in. And when I’m hooked, that means, I just totally want more. I am in love with the story and am waiting for the next episode (or page). I think the things that hook me most are just a compulsion to know more about these people, about who they are and what’s going to happen to them. For me, that means the characters have to be likable (yes, I need likable protagonists, generally; I have made a couple of exceptions) and compelling. But, I don’t know what magic formula makes it work. Of course, everyone is different. Some people hate stuff everyone loves and vice versa.

How long do you give a book to hook you? What about a TV series? What makes you decide to go back if you were on the fence? Is it easy to point out or more nebulous in your own mind?

About RJ Crayton

RJ Crayton is a former journalist who now writes fiction. She's reported for the Kansas City Star and Wichita Eagle, as well as the smaller publications Education Technology News and Campus Crime. She has two published novels, Life First and Second Life and blogs for Indies Unlimited and the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies. For exclusive content and first looks at her new work, sign up for the newsletter at http://rjcrayton.com/subscribe.
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4 Responses to When Do You Know You’re Hooked?

  1. DV Berkom says:

    Interesting post, RJ. Before I became a writer, I’d stop after the first couple of chapters/episodes if the book/show hadn’t hooked me. It usually had to do with whether I enjoyed reading about/watching the main character. Now, I tend to put the book away/stop watching at the first sign of an infodump or if the first chapter/episode sucks/explains too much–because competent writers know they have to hook the reader/viewer in the first pages/episode. If that doesn’t happen then the writer probably needs to work on craft a bit more. Also, in books especially, telling too much turns me right off. Sure, a scene may need some exposition, but keep it to a minimum.

    Readers don’t generally need to be spoon fed a story. Most are pretty intelligent and can figure things out on their own.

  2. For me it can happen a way into a book or show, but if I can’t like at least one important character, if there is no sign of compassion anywhere in either characters or plot it’s lost me. For books I usually give them about 50 pages. If at that point I am either bored or frustrated by the lack of humanity I drop it. I don’t mind darkness but there has to be some hope, some compassion and some depth.

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