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How to Write Stories that Sell by Edward S. Fox

READERSVOICE.COM aims to give a few samples from interesting out of print books. Many of these are forgotten but all of them are as good as anything published recently.

This issue features some tips from How to Write Stories that Sell, by Edward S. Fox. This book was written in 1961, and the hardback quoted from was published by The Writer, Inc, Boston, in 1969. It is well worth tracking down, at least to learn how to write good short stories.

In one chapter he talks about narrative hooks. These plant a question in the reader’s mind. They occur very early in the story, like on page one. Mr Fox described one of his stories.

He says: It’s about a boy whose dog has been lost for three or four months.  The dog has been returned to his home and the boy, but he doesn’t seem to care for the boy anymore and, to cap it off, the man who had found and kept him for those months wants to buy him. The kid is hurt. This has come at a time, too, when his mother has died and his father has married again.

The author says later: The whole first page is our narrative hook. We want to know now, “What’s going to happen when Tom Fenton arrives and David refuses to give up his dog?”

Edward S. Fox used a strong narrative hook on the first page of his novel, Hunger Valley (published 1965). One reader wrote about the book: Things get dark from the VERY FIRST PAGE, when the party’s leader is telling everyone that if they get caught by the snow they all won’t make it to California alive. And the first page isn’t even a full page, it’s just a half page!

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