What is a writing hook?
It is a set of words that encourages a reader to keep reading what someone has written. Anything that is written must have some sort of hook to it, otherwise most readers are going to stop reading after a few sentences. This is because as a reader reads, they are also judging the experience, expertise, and capabilities of the writer.
The goal is simple: to bring the reader into the world of the writer. The outcome is not as simple. With a few choice words, however, it is possible to convert even the most skeptical reader to finish reading what they’ve started.
Knowing how to do that as a writer means being aware of the different types of hooks that are available for inclusion. Here are the different hooks that are available to you.
#1. The Startling Statement
A good hook is sometimes something that is completely unexpected. The fact is that humans are capable of many incredible atrocities against one another. By outlining the “evil” part of your narrative first before contrasting it with the “good” components of what you’re offering, the reversal can often capture the imagination of the reader.
#2. The Anecdote Memoir
Sharing a personal memory can also be a great hook, but only when you’ve been descriptive enough to immediately transport the reader into the memory. “I sat at the table and waited for my drink. I was thirsty.” That’s not a good hook. Try transforming it like this.
“The day was the hottest of the season. My skin saw the sun and instantly tried to hide underneath my clothing. The back of my throat was so parched. It was like my body was begging for a drink of water. An available table at a local diner became available. I immediately sat down and begged the waitress to bring me a glass of cold water. She smiled at me, but didn’t say a word. Would she bring me that glass of water?”
It takes a little more time to write descriptively, but at this point in the story you’re looking to establish a world more than you are looking to establish facts. As long as the narrative draws the reader in, your words keep driving the narrative further.
#3. The Inspirational Quote
If you can find an inspirational quote that works well for the story that you’re writing, then it might be a good idea to start with it. By including it, the reader is able to subtly see how you’ve done some research for your writing and will be more inclined to keep reading. Take this quote about writing hooks from Stephen King:
“The best writers hook their readers with voice, not just action.”
#4. The Rhetorical Question
This is the type of hook you see on most blog posts these days. It’s a direct question that attempts to draw the reader into what has been written already. If this content were to start with a rhetorical question, it would be something like this.
“How would you feel about reading a story that didn’t have a writing hook included with it?”
#5. Shocking Statistics
Sometimes creating anger or depression can be a good writing hook as well because you’re promising relief of those feelings at the end of what you’ve written. Promise Keepers, a religious organization geared toward men, used to lead with this statistic as a hook.
“In surveys of self-identified evangelical men who attend church weekly, 90% admitted to accessing pornography within the last 30 days.”
A shocking statistic draws battle lines. It also offers solutions. If readers are interested in those solutions, then they’ll keep reading.
#6. The Musing
Musings are just thoughts that you have as a writer. There are two primary musings that can work as a writing hook: philosophical and humorous. Which you choose depends on the “attitude” you’re trying to put into the book. A philosophical musing is good for books about encouraging self-awareness. Humorous musings are better for stories that are trying to achieve conformity.
Any thought you have can be a musing. The only thing to remember with this writing hook is that you’ve got to turn that thought into a question. If you’ve always wondered what it would be like if no one had a nose on their face, the musing would be this: “What if no one had a nose?”
Short, simple, and a potentially great writing hook.
The final writing hook, the analogy, is the most difficult hook to incorporate. You must draw a comparison for the reader to something of which they are familiar and that can be difficult to do if you’re unsure about your target audience.
These are the 7 primary writing hooks that are used by all writers today. Choose the one that makes sense for your writing and the content you’re writing about and you’ll be able to have more readers reach the finish line.