Baiting the Hook by Perry McDaid

The best reviewers and critics may allow time for a story to bite. Novels are like marlin: big, feisty, formidably entertaining, and bring considerable monetary gain if you land one. It is only proper, then, that a proportionate amount of patience and effort is expended upon this potentially profitable catch by those who undertake the challenge.

Short stories however, are like trout: small, snappy, and seldom more than a snack. Anyone willing to stand all day waiting for a particular one to bite is a martyr with nothing better to do, and would be well to move upstream.

Obversely, where the reader is the fish, there is never a good reason for keeping them waiting while flies are tied and worms impaled. All the best novelists hook the reader as quickly as possible. Once they are captured, they may be played; filling in on the history of characters, providing some background for the plot, or letting them run through descriptive passages; reinforcing control with captivating action sequences when interest wanes. This is the nature of a great novel: it entertains, builds up suspense and does not reach the climax too soon. I'll avoid the obvious analogy here.


On the other hand short stories, while also hooking the reader immediately, shouldn't have the time to mess about. A short story may repulse, shock, or even anger readers. It should never even come close to boring them.

So enjoy your angling writing, but remember to consider all those taking part.

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