Hooks are how the story grabs the reader’s attention and keeps it page after page.
Entertaining and surprising them, forming an emotional connection between them, the story, and its characters.
A story can have many kinds of hooks: storyline, character, conflict, even setting.
And some may stand out more than others while not necessarily being unique or original to the story itself.
All that is needed is to produce a strong reaction or emotion to keep the reader glued to the page, waiting to see what happens next.
It’s not the uniqueness of the concept that matters, only that it is compelling enough to hold the reader’s attention.
The Story Hook
While we might think we need some outlandish idea that’s never been seen before to make our story stand out in the reader’s mind, that’s not entirely true.
If it were, there would be no need for so many vampire romances or shark attack movies.
Actually, being completely unique is not all it’s cut out to be if you think about it from the reader’s point of view.
After all, how are they even to know your book exists if it doesn’t hold something familiar to them, or that they don’t already read and know they like.
They wouldn’t even know what to search for to get started.
Most people read and watch what they already know they like or have similarities to what they’ve seen or read before.
I know I love a good disaster movie or fantasies where the fate of the world is at stake.
These are concepts I look for.
However, if every book or movie were exactly the same, I would quickly become bored and eventually quit looking for more.
Therefore storyline hooks should always have something unusual or unique to grab the reader’s attention.
Because if you pose a question or mystery the reader finds intriguing and is dying to know the answer to, you’ll capture their attention long enough to get them involved in the story.
Then all you have to do is keep it.
The Character Hook
The storyline hook may grab the reader’s attention in the beginning, but an interesting character is often what holds it.
We empathize with those who are in trouble and idolize those who are strong enough to overcome all odds.
A reader’s attachment to a character can create a strong emotional bond between them.
This is why we cry when our favorite character dies or become fearful when they are cornered with no exit in sight.
Readers want to see a little bit of themselves in the character but feel the need to step outside the norm of everyday life and the people they see around them.
They look for someone who is different or has something unique in their life or job, whether that be having special powers or living the life of a CIA agent.
They just need to be compelling enough to make the readers want to follow the character through their trials.
Because all we want is to pretend to be someone else for a while.
And it’s through the characters that we seek to escape our mundane, everyday lives.
To break the cycle of repetitiveness that can make life so boring at times and experience life through someone else’s eyes.
Interesting characters can often be what holds the story together and keeps the reader to the end.
Take advantage of them.
The Conflict Hook
Stories simply would not exist without conflict to keep them interesting.
No one wants to read about the perfect character living the perfect life.
A couple of pages of that and the story would quickly be put down.
We all live for the action and trials set before the characters.
To see them overcome the impossible and face obstacles we don’t often experience in our own lives because it provides an escape from real-life problems.
We want to see them meet situations one would not usually find in our everyday lives and solve problems we hope never to face.
This is why so many people watch the news or read the newspaper.
If we see someone won the lottery after living life in a homeless shelter, we root for them and wish it were us.
If firefighter saves someone but loses their own life, we mourn their loss and salute their courage and heroism.
It’s all about seeing conflict bring out the best, or worst, in people because it defines humanity at its most basic level.
Because conflict is all around us.
The Setting Hook
Create a world the reader never wants to leave.
Who wants to read about the world they see on an everyday basis?
We want to explore places we’ve never been and find the adventure we’ll never have.
No matter the setting, there is always something that can be found to make it new, different, or exciting.
Put it to good use.
Grab the reader’s attention and keep a tight hold on it, because once lost, it’s next to impossible to regain.
FOR FURTHER READING
Renea strives to help writers develop the focus and skills they need to finish their first novel, offering writers practical writing advice they can apply one step at a time.
She is the author of Conquering Writing Pressures: Living a Balanced Writing Life in a Busy World where she helps writers find the courage to accept life will never be perfect. And if we want our dreams to succeed, we must fight to make them a reality.
She currently lives in St. Joseph, Missouri, with her husband Joe, her three children, and her five lovable furballs.
From a young age, Renea was mad for books and reading, and especially loved Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time series, which she read in the ninth grade.
She is an avid reader, with her main interests residing in history, mythology, and fantasy, along with some romance and science fiction in her earlier years.
When Renea’s not writing, she enjoys genealogy, role-playing games, and dreams of traveling the world. In a past life, she plucked chickens and milked cows.