How to Make Your Story’s Hook Great

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How to Make Your Story’s Hook Great

“The only vampire I ever met was in Natchez, Mississippi.” That’s the opening line of a story* I’ve told hundreds of times both to entertain and  teach. It’s simple. But it’s a hook I crafted through many drafts and rounds of audience feedback. Why’s it great? And how can you make your own hooks great? I’ll dissect.

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How to Begin Your Creative Process

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How to Begin Your Creative Process

Thoughts rumble around in my head like rocks. Boulders, stones, pebbles. They’re rough ideas, starter concepts and floating phrases. And I can hear them crashing, crunching and bumping into each other. This is the beginning of my writing process.

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Chef Maya Erickson's Black Sesame Dessert

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Chef Maya Erickson's Black Sesame Dessert

Stylized, Sexy, Provocative and Decadent. Everything You Would Expect from a Grandmother’s Recipe. At 13 years old, Maya Erickson was working in a professional kitchen, tasked primarily with filling cookies and wrapping tuiles. She shrugs this detail off now, as if it’s simply a throwaway line unworthy of her bio. As if most newly-turned teenagers must surely have been like her—resisting the temptation to toggle among their screens and choosing, instead, a highly disciplined path.

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You Got Curtains in this Thing, Baby?

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You Got Curtains in this Thing, Baby?

When Gerald first saw her, he quickly clocked her as one of the Top 5 best looking girls at the party. Not #1, but not #6 either. She was noted. 15 minutes later—or one beer, whichever came first—she was walking past him on her way to the kitchen, and he cooly, casually broke from his conversation to say hello, then cooly, casually resumed. He was noted. 

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On Shuffleboard, Air Guitar & Professional Karaoke

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On Shuffleboard, Air Guitar & Professional Karaoke

Noel likes to wait until the very end of the night to sing Beyonce. Before then she's too busy doling out Buds and little bags of Classic Lay's. But by about 1:45, the ten customers at Nick's Lounge, which does karaoke every night of the week, have all sung at least once, and Noel glides out from behind the bar, tells Steve the DJ to cue up a deep track--"'Single Ladies' is so overdone!"--and kills. I mean, she really kills.

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Uber Jimmy

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Uber Jimmy

Jimmy clicked the volume down a few levels. I could sense him spot-glancing me in his rearview mirror before he finally said, “So, it’s kinda been a tough afternoon.”

I was overnighting in L.A. for work on a Thursday and using Uber to get place to place.

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The Only Vampire in Natchez, Mississippi, Drove a Rolls Royce

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The Only Vampire in Natchez, Mississippi, Drove a Rolls Royce

The only vampire I ever met was in Natchez, Mississippi. Natchez is one of the oldest towns on the Mississippi River—settlers were there in the 1600s. And when you look at it on a map, it’s as if the river actually bends toward the town, as if Natchez has this mysterious magnetic pull. It’s a town full of transients—Mark Twain slept there. It’s a town full of characters. I was there to find those people: to write a story about the most interesting locals.

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Abe Lincoln's Birther Conspiracy

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Abe Lincoln's Birther Conspiracy

Bostic, North Carolina, is a sleepy little town in Rutherford County nestled in the shadow of the mountains. There’s a town hall, a post office, some churches and stores. There’s also the Bostic Lincoln Center. Lincoln. As in Abraham Lincoln. The center’s whole purpose is to tell the controversial and disputed story that our 16th president was born in North Carolina. 

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For Tangier Island Watermen, An Accent Remains While They Disappear

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For Tangier Island Watermen, An Accent Remains While They Disappear

James “Ooker” Eskridge is a waterman who has lived on Tangier Island, Virginia, his whole life. In my interview with him, Ooker talks about being the Chesapeake Bay island’s mayor (population 450), the dwindling interest in working in the seafood industry, and the island’s distinct Cornwall, England-tinged accent.

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