If you think of your writing as a fishing line and your readers as the fish, the purpose of a hook becomes clear. Whether you author an essay for a class or the great American novel, the hook pulls the reader into the story.
“It was a bright, cold day in April ...”
Imagine if George Orwell had used this line when publishing his classic novel 1984. Now add:
“...and the clocks were striking thirteen.”
That hook teases your imagination. When self-publishing a novel, a good hook determines whether your audience wants to read the book or push it aside.
What Makes a Good Hook?
“All children except one grow up.”
Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie
This would not be a good hook for a thesis about child development, but it works when publishing a children’s fiction novel.
Hooks for nonfiction books can be:
An interesting quote
A unique fact
For fiction, you want to stretch your imagination. Writer’s Digest suggests hooks for fiction might include:
A statement of principle associated with the story – For example, The Book of Ruth by Jane Hamilton discusses the meanness in people’s hearts.
A simple fact – “I am an invisible man.” Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
Something that introduces the voice of the story – A supernatural thriller might start with a scary line or a love story with an affectionate phrase.
When a Hook is Something Else
Hooks are not always the first lines of an article or story. Sometimes a hook is a tagline used when self-publishing that will attract potential readers. In this scenario, the hook gives a first impression during a book marketing campaign or on the cover.
"A novel of vampire, werewolves and dirigibles.” This is the tagline for the paranormal romance novel by Gail Carriger call Changeless. It grabs your attention before you even know anything about the story. When creating a tagline:
Use active language – “Her next jump may be her last” as opposed to “She jumped, maybe for the last time.
Use colorful words – When is the last time you heard someway say dirigibles?
Avoid adjectives – The tagline is no place for “ly” words.
Things to Avoid When Writing a Hook
Whether creating a tagline or the first-line for your novel, there are some things you should never do.
Lie – Don’t promise a story about vampires unless there really are bloodsuckers in it.
Go over the top – Simple is the best policy. Don’t say olfactory when smell will do.
Make it too dry – If in doubt, go for the laugh.
A hook is a promise writers make to their audience. The goal is to provide a teaser that is both elusive and edgy. What is the hook from your favorite book?
Keep the Faith and may the Force be with You!