Hooks Are For Fish, Pirates, And Readers

What snags you hard and drags you somewhere else whether you like it or not? The first sentence of a book! Though there may be other parts of a book that are more exciting or important, the first sentence of a book, the hook, is crucial because it is what initially invests your readers in your novel and keeps them turning pages. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, and a journey into a book begins with a single sentence. Here are some tips on how to make a good hook to bait your readers.

Pirate hook in the pages of a book
NOTE: no interesting book was harmed in the making of this photo . . . Arrgghh!

What! What?

Any hook needs to do at least one thing: get your readers asking questions. If they ask questions, then they are not only curious about your story, but they will want an answer. Searching for answers is what keeps them reading.

Don’t Fake The Bait

The style and voice of the hook need to seamlessly flow with the story or else it will be obvious that the hook was tagged on as an attempt to get readers interested. If a dramatic, jaw-dropping hook doesn’t work with your story, then try something else instead.

Hooks Are Not Cliffhangers

You don’t get readers excited with a sensational hook and then drone on about the scenery, the rituals of you imaginary world, or the taste of fried chicken (unless, perhaps, you are doing it for humorous purposes). The excitement the readers feel will quickly turn into resentment as they send your book packing back to the library. Don’t cheat your readers. At the very least start to gradually answer their questions, or even build on the hook with another one to reel them deeper into your story.

Types Of Hooks

Most of the time, when we think of a hook, we think of something exciting that has you flying through the first ten pages of the book in three second flat ZOOM! Though while an exciting hook often does the job, a good hook can be many things. It can be humorous, letting the readers know that the characters or plot of the novel is going to make them laugh. Or it can be intriguing, which does a great job at getting readers to ask questions. A hook can also be a chapter title, or even the title of the book.

It was a dark and stormy night as a first line hook
How can you hook your readers to the story?

Great hooks

First Line Hooks

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater: “It is the first day of November and so, today, someone will die.”

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis: “There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.”

Dragon Slippers by Jessica Day George: “It was my aunt who decided to give me to the dragon.”

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle: “It was a dark and stormy night.”

Chapter/Title Hooks

The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan: “I Accidently Vaporize My Pre-Algebra Teacher.”

How Not To Be Popular by Jennifer Ziegler

What are some of your favorite book hooks? Share them in the comments below, on Facebook, or on Twitter.

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