Writing Tips #5 Hooks

No, not fishing hooks. Or that giant hook that pulls a bombing act off the stage, although I fully expect that one anytime now. I’m talking about a memorable hook, a hook that keeps you interested.

In music the hook can come at any time, but usually it’s within that part of the song commonly referred to as the chorus. Sometimes that mold is broken and I think the ‘hook’ sets just fine.

If I were to say “36 24 36”, the correct end to that would be “what a winning hand”.

Some songs are so memorable that all you have to do is start the song. “Start spreading the news” or “Almost heaven”.

That last one has quite the global presence. I had heard a story on NPR about this in China. The reporter was in a crowded shopping area and began singing the song, everyone close to him in the non-English speaking crowd joined in and sang along with him. My older brother currently lives in Beijing told me a similar story. At a night club the song came on. 30 people that couldn’t speak English sang along like they were all sitting around a campfire.

So where should the hook be in a book? What if I were to say “In a boat or with a goat” Or if “It was the best of times it was the worst of times”.

I’ve been told that the first chapter needs to have a hook. A reason for the person that has picked up this book to continue reading. A few online suggestions even say that the “first sentence needs to reach through the pages and grab readers”.

Standoutbooks has a pretty good explanation of ‘The Hook’.

You’ve probably read all about the hook. But in case you haven’t, the hook is how you capture the reader’s full attention in your first line and first paragraph. Getting a compelling opening is SO important. It’s your first impression with a reader, your chance to convince them that your book is one they must keep reading.

So, what makes a good hook? There are many possibilities, but some tried-and-true approaches are:

  • raise a question the reader must see answered,
  • jump into the middle of the action,
  • start at the moment of the protagonist’s predicament,
  • make a statement of promise or great possibility.

However you go about it, the key is suspense: string your reader along so they MUST keep reading.

Chapter 1

                Cold does not describe weather that fateful night in December. It was the time of the year that puts a chill deep in your bones after the sun goes down. As Malcolm Fisk sat in that frigid hiding place while hunting, the weight of the situation and circumstances grew heavy.

That’s the beginning of my book ‘The Next’. Good hook? Want to keep reading?

Hopefully the answer is yes, or we might have to sell the cow for some magic beans.

Thanks for reading.

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