Hook me, I am available

AMAZING what happens when you throw a crusty old subject at a bunch of young minds and ask them to write. I did that a few times in the last two years and came away pleased.

The subject was always the same. Childishly simple, the kind you would expect to write an essay on in school: your hobby. Difference was, you needed to produce a feature article, a piece of creative non-fiction, informative and interesting, capable of carrying the reader through to the last word.

Result? Some very pleasant surprises (also some quite, um, unconventional use of punctuation and grammar, but more on that in another post), to prove, yet again, that there’s nothing called a boring topic. It’s how you tackle it that makes it boring — or not.

Naturally, how you begin is crucial. So here’s a sample of beginnings I found interesting…

Helen Smale’s hobby is not reading, nor dancing, nor singing. It’s mentoring school kids. She begins thus:

    I have just helped someone change his life. How? I went back to school.

Crisp. Dramatic. Now I want to know why, and how. She’s got me all right.

Mike Goodeve wrote about driving tests — to be precise, how he routinely fails driving tests. That’s not really what you would call a hobby, but, hey, he got away with it. This is his reworked lead:

    I have a hobby, a rather unusual one: I fail driving tests routinely.   

    I don’t know how long I will be able to carry on with it. But at the moment, I am giving it all I have got….

Point is, you can pull off darn near anything as a hobby (I remember a piece in Esquire magazine in which the writer decided to bargain for everything he bought, including hotdogs, then wrote this absolutely riveting piece on his haggling experience), provided you peg it up.

Leonie Wilson did something similar:

    I have this hobby I love to talk about. In fact, I’ve made talking about it a hobby in itself. This is why I jumped at the opportunity when a stranger contacted me and asked me to talk to her about my experience last summer.

Enough suspense in there to get us reading. More about how she keeps us hooked, and what her hobby is, in the next post. Now for another interesting beginning, clever pegging, from Sophie Pascal, who didn’t think she had a hobby –- till she looked the word up…

    This made me wonder what a hobby is. So I looked it up. The Oxford Dictionary describes a hobby as ‘a leisure time activity pursued for pleasure’.   

    In that case maybe I have a hobby. It’s not your average sporting hobby, but a highly developed fondness for cats. In my leisure time I enjoy cats and collect cat-related objects for pleasure … this must technically mean my immense love for cats is a hobby.

And now for another, from Katrin Kerber. Katrin’s hobby is video games, quite conventional compared to the ones we have discussed till now. She gets us with a saucy summary sentence:

    In the last couple of days I slept with at least four guys, married a girl, stopped a restaurant from going bankrupt, helped a musician get into the charts, and became vice-president of a big company.

Gemma Gilbert works along the same lines. Here’s how she teases us in (lightly edited):

    We’ve all done it, many of us more than once. Some of us do it in the bedroom. Some in front of mirrors. Some like to do it in clubs, with their mates watching.

Curious to know what she’s been up to? I was.

What makes these work? They grab my attention, one way or other, through surprise, shock, sheer sauce. You can also get me with information, description, action, conversation… anything really. Fact is, I am available. Up to you, how you hook me.


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