Recently I ran across the SyFy series Being Human, and after the first episode, I realized three very important things. First, Adorable actors! Second, I was addicted to the show like a bus driver to coffee. Third, the power and seduction of a cliffhanger to keep people watching – or in literary terms hooked.
This is a US version of a UK series. Aiden is a 250 (give or take) year old vampire that’s living the vegan lifestyle – meaning not drinking from the source. He’s tall, dark, handsome, dangerous and oh so yummy for a living dead guy. Josh is a tortured werewolf with low self-esteem and a deep commitment to morality. He’s “doe eyed”, geeky, but sincerely sweet. Sally is a ghost. She’s is the bubbly, comic relief, and a perfect counterpart to both Aiden and Josh. These three unlikely friends all live in the same house, deal with their individual supernatural dilemmas, and ultimately become a close nit and unconventional family. The overall theme of the show is finding normalcy in their everyday life, only to face a mountain of roadblocks along the way.
From the very first episode action, drama, and comedy blend together perfectly. You get a good introduction to the characters and you are invested in them before you get to the cliffhanger at the end of the first episode. *Spoiler Alert* At the end of the first episode, Josh has found a safe place to change into a werewolf where he won’t hurt anyone. Only Josh’s estranged sister follows him in hopes of confronting him. As they talk, Josh begins his rather painful transition and tries to push his sister out of the room because he doesn’t want to hurt or kill her. She on the other hand shuts the door and locks them inside together with no way to get out and no one to rescue them.
And….then the episode ends. Yes – it ends!!! You have no idea how they are going to survive. You are emotionally invested in both characters and their relationship and you need to know the resolution. I needed to know the sister lives and Josh doesn’t kill her. When the screen went black and the credits rolled, I fumbled for the remote as if it was a piece of chocolate. I needed to see what happened next.
This – I realized is magic. It’s the addiction that makes us watch an entire series without going to bed. More important – this is what makes readers turn the page and stay awake all night long. Yes, my friends, I’m talking about the hook. It’s what every first time writer needs to understand in order to write the best seller. It what every reader needs to become invested in the book.
The first chapter needs introduce and build memorable characters that connect with the reader. It needs to have a wham bam moment that starts a physical reaction. It is my goal as a writer to make sure the reader doesn’t close or put down the book. I don’t want them doing the dishes, changing the baby’s diaper, or sipping a cocktail – I want them reading and turning pages.
This first episode of Being Human (and all of the episodes thereafter) gave me that reaction. I didn’t want to stop. I even paid to watch episodes because I couldn’t handle not knowing what happened next.
In my writing life, I’ve been struggling to find the right starting point for my novel. I’ve written six beginnings and none of them feel right. I can’t move on to the next chapter until I know where I want to start. However, after watching all three seasons of this show I can honestly say I will be making it much more dramatic and include a damn good hook to make the reader keep going.
Okay – you’re turn. What do you think about cliffhangers? Have you seen Being Human? Have you ever found yourself addicted after one episode? Addicted after the first chapter? Share your stories.