Hooking your readers
Updated: Jun 18
You’ve got your empty notepad in front of you, a steaming latte, perhaps a few reference books, and all the time in the world. You pick up your pen and then…nothing. You know what you want to write, but nothing’s happening. Writing a book—even just a short story—is something you’ve always dreamt of, but now that you are raring to tackle it, you don’t seem to know how to lead it off. This is where it’s critical to know about hooks.
A hook is the opening phrase or even short paragraph of your story that sets everything in motion. It is what draws in your reader and tells them “This is going to be one heck of a ride!” Apart from your cover art and back-cover blurb, the hook is your first real chance to make an impacting first impression on your reader. It’s also your chief way of getting literary agents interested in your work.
One vital thing about writing a strong hook is that it should make a promise about the content that follows. If you indicate a thrilling story in a clever hook, then make sure you deliver by writing a thrilling book. The hook should suck in your reader; but, like a fish on a line, you don’t want to lose her midway or have a lackluster ending that fails to follow through on the intensity of the hook. Your fish will snap the line and may be gone for good.
As you sit thinking about what kind of hook to write, here are a few things to consider. What elements typically suck you into a story? In how many sentences, even words, does your favorite author hook you? What memorable stories have you read that had notable hooks? How have your favorite authors crafted their hooks: Vivid description? Clever dialogue? Heart-pounding action? Whatever they did, they succeeded in making you think “I simply have to find out more about that!”
As an exercise, pull out some of your favorite novels and short stories. Read the opening sentences and focus on the hooks. You may even wish to write them down so you can isolate them and see how simple but potent those lines are. Now practice writing some of your own hooks, modeling them after what worked so well for your favorite authors. In no time, you may have a list of potentials for your works in progress or prompts for later works.