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What The Giant Robots of Pacific Rim Reminded Me About Hooking a Reader

August 21, 2013

20130821 Pacific RimThey did it. I called for it, and they finally did it.

Giant robots.

And not just two, not just three, but four giant robots.

But seriously, giant robots aside, the story behind Pacific Rim was mediocre, sometimes even predictable.

You have a pilot who lost his will to fight, another hotshot rival pilot, and a commander with an obvious secret. Throw in some uncreative events to add length, and this story only gets two and a half out of five, barely even a pass.

Yet I was hooked, and I’ll be watching this movie over and over. So what gives?

Why would I do this for a story that barely passes in quality? And is it possible for you to get readers so hooked on yours?

The Hook

Every story has a hook, something that really captures a reader’s interest and creates a desire to keep going.

It’s pretty obvious what the hook in Pacific Rim is. It’s an understatement to say that these robots are huge. They tower over buildings, even standing tall in the sea. I was in awe when I saw them rising out of the ocean, water gushing off metal limbs like a waterfall pouring from a mountain.

So how can you hook readers on your story the way Pacific Rim hooked me? No, you don’t need giant robots.

If we look at other movies that did really good, we can see that they also have interesting hooks.

Avatar has people controlling giant blue guys on a dangerous planet, Dead Man’s Chest has a ghost ship that surges out of the sea like a submarine, and the number one movie of all time, Back to the Future, has a Deloreon time-machine with tires that light on fire when the time-circuits are activated (awesome, right).

We see this happening with successful books as well.

Twilight has werewolves and vampires, and 50 Shades of Grey is filled with BDSM.

But while these hooks are enough to capture the interest of fanatics, are they really enough to create a best-seller if included in your story?

Hooking With Story\Characters

The giant robots of Pacific Rim hooked me, and while it plays in the movie’s favour, it’s actually a big problem.

There’s really only so much you can do with robots punching monsters

Imagine how much better this movie would have been if the story had hooked me. Pacific Rim could have been so much more if there was a war between factions that somehow caused the monsters, instead of just monsters and machines slugging it out.

If we consider the same movies from above, we see that Avatar had the fight for Pandora between the humans and the blue guys, Dead Man’s Chest featured Jack Sparrow’s attempt to escape the bargain he made with Davy Jones, and Back to the Future showed Marty screwing up his existence when his younger mother fell in love with him instead of his younger father. That cool time-machine actually only had 2 scenes in the entire story.

It’s always better to hook readers with a well-executed story or interesting characters rather than inanimate objects or concepts.

The book market is flooded with vampires and werewolves, so why would Twilight capture interest? Because the writer threw in a love triangle between a human, a vampire, and a werewolf, something that probably had romance enthusiasts all excited.

I recently came across a novel called Drunk on the Moon which tells the story of a werewolf trying to solve a crime mystery. This new spin on the overdone werewolf concept has me interested.

And I’m sure there is a story in 50 Shades of Grey somewhere, right. I mean, it’s not like everyone just bought it for the descriptive sexual content, right…

So, although it would be nice, you don’t need to include giant robots to keep your reader’s attention. If you can find an element in your genre that really captures interest, and implement with a strong story and great characters, then you will have readers hooked, much more than Pacific Rim.

Comments and thoughts? And what movies or books kept you coming back because of an interesting hook? Let me know.

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From → Writing Tips

  1. Gwen Stephens permalink

    I think Hollywood is churning out these flat stories with increasing frequency. It’s a frustrating double standard. We emergent fiction writers are told to avoid predictability and cliches if we have any hope of landing a publishing deal. Yet screenwriters seem to have a free pass to toss out the tired retreads again and again.

    • I agree. I think I’ll go over to Hollywood and straighten things out.

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