What are story-hooks? And why are they so important?
Well, a story-hook is basically an attention-grabbing bit of text in either your story or book blurb. The hook part is an analogy of a fisherman (author) hooking the fish (reader) with a tasty morsel (story-hook) and then reeling (getting the reader to buy) them in.
Although I’m not too happy with the phrases ‘hook’ and ‘reeling them in.’ I think it sounds too mechanical and a shade ruthless!
But, if we as authors want to attract our readers and sell books we need to do something to grab their attention. Easier said than done, considering the number of books out there all vying for attention.
Questions to ask yourself
There are many ways to create a story-hook. Firstly, cast your mind back to the last time you chose a book, film or TV drama. What made you choose that particular item?
Was it within your genre, romance, crime, or a coming of age story?
Did it have an emotional pull?
Was there a question in the first scene or book blurb that made you anxious, so, that you just couldn’t wait to find out what happens.
Did you like the cover?
Was it written by a favourite writer?
Did you find yourself thinking that the first few sentences were so interesting, mysterious, or thought-provoking that you just couldn’t stop reading/watching if you tried? Aside from being a story written with an interesting angle, it was probably a hook sentence that grabbed you.
So many questions
You can see, so many questions, but they’re all relevant to add to the story-hook. If we go back to the fishing analogy: here we know it’s not just the tasty morsel that will catch the fish. The conditions also have to be right, including the time of day, the skill of the fisherman to know where the fish lurks and equipment used.
It’s the same with an author, the story-hook is important to get the reader to read the first paragraph, but then if they become bored, they’ll wriggle off that hook and swim off to another author’s book.
What will hook a reader?
Readers are emotional creatures, and an emotional hook can quickly hook/attract them to your book.
You could start with a character’s internal monologue about intimate feelings, or show a scene that demands an emotional reaction – such as domestic violence, war, a fight between two lovers, or another common or emotional experience.
To an extent, your hook answers the “why” of the 5W’s in story-telling and prompts the reader to continue reading in hopes that you will answer the other burning questions regarding the
what, when, where, why and who of the story.
How to create your story-hooks
Here are ideas to start you off.
- Ask a question your reader will what answering
- Be descriptive and paint a vivid picture of the scene.
- A mysterious situation the reader will want to know what happens.
- Startle the reader with a fact.
- Start with a quote – which will mean something to the story.
- Provide a plot twist.
- Shock the reader.