Ways to Identify If & Why Your Setup Doesn’t Hook

Nobody goes into writing a book and thinks “I’m going to write a story that doesn’t hook.” But everybody worries about writing a story that doesn’t hook. 

And most importantly, you don’t always know you’ve written bad setup. Not only because you’ve been living with the story for a while (whether you’ve been writing it or seriously contemplating the events before you even sit down to write it). But also, there’s very much the possibility that you think you’ve communicated your setup to the reader in a way that makes sense, and the reader won’t perceive it that way.

Either way, it’s always a good idea to temperature check your setup and make sure that it’s doing what it’s supposed to be doing. 

Don’t know what setup is? Check out my video on defining setup!

The safest option for authors who might not know if setup is their strong suit, or writers who just want to incorporate checking the effectiveness of their setup as part of their writing or revising process, is to run a series of diagnostics.

Diagnostics are super helpful in just double-checking whether or not you’re including the right information in your setup, and if your setup is creating the right expectations for the story you intend to tell or have already told.

Whether you run these diagnostics before your book gets edited, during revisions, or use them to inform writing your next book, diagnostics are really there to help you identify your setup strengths and weaknesses.

So, let’s explore some ways you can identify if and why your setup doesn’t hook a reader.

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The Psychology of Hurt/Comfort Romances

When most people think about romance novels they focus on stories that work toward a HEA or even HFN ending. But recently, Hurt/Comfort (H/C) stories are becoming more and more popular, where the journey to that HEA is painful, torturous, and downright gut-wrenching. These are the epic love stories that make you hurt so bad that you keep on reading in the hopes that the characters will find that HEA, because, Damn it! They deserve it. But what makes this antithesis journey to romance so desirable?

Defining Hurt/Comfort

Hurt/Comfort stories are defined as stories that have one character who has physical/emotional/psychological trauma and another character who heals/nurtures/comforts them through it.

H/C stories go beyond your average alpha male/spunky female couples (or whatever tickles your fancy), in that in there is an intensity and an openness with which the hurt protagonist’s pain and struggle through that pain is explored. It gives the reader an all-access pass in to the character’s world of pain, and their struggle to overcome or deal with that pain.

They showcase how pain is seldom experienced alone. That the ones around us, the ones who care, have a deep-seated desire to comfort and nurture us through the pain. How the nurturing protagonist learns about themselves in comforting the hurt protagonist.

H/C stories are about the reciprocal nature of hurt and comfort, neglect and nurture, and weakness and strength.

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