I’ve been hearing this phrase a lot lately. A book has to have an “essential hook” which I interpret as a reason to keep reading. What makes this story essential? What makes it the one you have to keep reading because you have to know what happens.
In the YA book I’m reading right now, Trash by Andy Mulligan, the main characters; boys who live and work in a landfill, find a mysterious parcel that may be worth a lot of money. So far the book is about their decision to withhold the package from the police and solve the mystery on their own.
This is an essential hook as far as I’m concerned. Nothing like a mysterious package pulled from the trash to keep me reading. But a hook doesn’t have to be a physical object. A hook can be a relationship between two characters, or an internal conflict within one character. The key is that “essential” part. It has to be essential to the character and the plot, and it has to feel essential to the reader. It’s easier to describe and recognize as a reader than it is to accomplish as a writer.