The term ‘hook-line-and-sinker’ is the eponymous of the way a human reacts to something of interest. Simply put, if a person really likes something they are, “hook-line-and-sinker.” The term comes from fishing, and it relates to the way that if a fish eats a fisherman’s hook (sharp part holding the bait that locks them) the line (fishing string) and the sinker (weight that keeps the line from rising above the water) then the fish is surely caught. Whereas if a fish were to only take the hook, or just the hook and the line, then there is a chance that they might be caught, or might not be caught. The key, though, is all three, “hook,” “line,” and “sinker.” Miss one and you might as well miss all three.
“An author’s job should be to make things, in a sense, as simple for the reader as possible.”
The reason I bring this up and start my essay with this old colloquialism is because although One Hundred Years of Solitude had me hooked from the very beginning, though very well written, it failed to capture me hook-line-and-sinker. And even though the term is based on fishing, the same is held true for writing. A writer doesn’t merely aim to hook his reader; he wants to get them line-and-sinker as well. This, I believe, is where One Hundred Years of Solitude falls short, and it is from this which I learned the most from the novel.
Here are the ways in which I believed One Hundred Years of Solitude lacked a certain amount of joie de vivre.
For starters, from the very beginning I found myself wondering whose story it was that was being told. The novel first introduces us to the character Aureliano Buendia, but then he disappears and we are left with his father Jose Arcadio Buendia. Jose Arcadio then becomes the main focus of the text but only until we are then focused back on Aureliano and then another person and then another. The story moves from Aureliano Buendia to Arcadio Buendia back to Aureliano to Jose Arcadio, then Arcadio, then Aureliano Jose. On and on down the line, etc. The characters were made specific in their descriptions but as a reader because of the similar names I was confused, during some of the busier scenes, and was left wondering who was who, and again, whose story it was. I understood that the author may have been trying to get across a picture of lineage with the usage of repeating familial names but surely there could have been a less confusing manner. An author’s job should be to make things, in a sense, as simple for the reader as possible. Make things too hard and a reader will simply put the book down. Notwithstanding, an author should still challenge his readers; however, the challenge shouldn’t be in remembering a dozen similar sounding names, the challenge should be in finding different levels of depth within the text. By starting the book of with Aureliano and then ignoring him for dozens of pages only to bring him back later and then to toss him aside and then bring another character in with a similar name it only left me feeling jaded.
“What good is a well written sentence if it doesn’t drive the reader to read the next and the next and the next?”
The author initially had me hooked with the story of Aureliano Buendia and instantly I became curious as to the circumstance of his future possible execution, but the story and character of Aureliano Buendia became such a tease, and a story that seemed so far away, that even though I had been hooked, I stopped following the line. Right after I was hooked by the story of Aureliano, things jumped to someone and something entirely different and although there were glimpses of Aureliano and the future execution that would befall him, there was too much distance between the sinker and the hook. I was lost, confused, and most of all, and worst of all, bored. I stopped caring. In a book that encompasses seven generations, I was bored by the first generation and had to force myself through the remaining six. I believe this is specifically because the initial thing that had hooked me at the beginning was not strong enough to carry me through, and there were no further hooks that would have carried me through the entire novel.
The novel was perfectly written with not a single comma out of place; however, well written sentences are meaningless if they have no ends. What good is a well written sentence if it doesn’t drive the reader to read the next and the next and the next? What One Hundred Years of Solitude lacked was that special something that would keep me reading through the night, or would keep me thinking about it even as I fell asleep waiting to read more the next day. It is a book that I put down, and as all readers and writers know, once a book is put down, it often is never picked up again. As salesmen say, “Make the sale while they’re still in the room, because there’s a good chance that if they walk out that door they’re never coming back.” And even if the person is/does come back, each time you need to treat them as though they’re never coming back. You need to sell them every step of the way, with every word, sentence and paragraph. This is what I believe One Hundred Years of Solitude lacked.
“The sinker is what really gets the fish.”
What I believe was good about reading this book was that, although it was very well written, and although I wasn’t much of a fan, reading the novel taught me that in my own experience as a reader, things need to hook you right away and keep you hooked (a la hook-line-and-sinker). There have been plenty of books throughout the years that I have started reading only to have stopped because I became bored, and there are just as many books that I started reading and liked, but stopped reading and never picked up again because I found something else more interesting. And there are also books where I’ve showed up late to work, skipped class, or missed meals, simply because I was so enamored with the writing and story that I simply couldn’t put it down (Ex: All Quiet on the Western Front). This is where my lesson was learned.
The sinker is what really gets the fish. That’s how you know you’ve got them for sure. And for One Hundred Years of Solitude I was hooked and followed the line but never reached the sinker. I never got to that point. But through an in-depth analysis and meditation on my own writing I have seen how I have used this correctly and incorrectly in the past and how to better use it in the future. The key I believe it to hook the reader at the very beginning, preferably with the first sentence, paragraph or page, and then have them follow the line until they reach the sinker which has to be something big. Once you have them hooked the key is to not have too much distance between the hook and the sinker. If there’s too much distance a fish can figure out what’s going on and break free and a reader can become bored and move on. But the hook and sinker must be on the same line. For One Hundred Years of Solitude the hook went to a different line, I followed that line which only led to another hook, I followed that new line which only led to another hook, on and on down until the book was done and I realized that I had never been hooked-line-and-sinkered, and had only continued reading because it was a requirement for school. In my own writing I now realize that to keep a reader reading it is not enough to merely hook them and have them follow a line but I also need to have something big in the story that will keep the reader reading even if it means missing work or school. Now, how to do that, is the real question, and I will now look for it in the books that have done it to me in the past and that will do it to me in the future.
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