She is dead. Lying there on the cold cement floor. Her once beautiful green eyes that shone like emeralds in the light—now lifeless, pale, staring into nothing. She is gone forever. All because I wasn't man enough to save her.
So you want to learn the secret to writing hooks? There is no better way to learn how to hook a reader than being hooked yourself first. That feeling of wanting to know what happens next or why this happened.
That is exactly what a good hook is designed for—to grab your attention and make you want to keep reading. But that's not the secret.
Grab Readers’ Attention by Writing the Ultimate Hook
What is a hook? It is a technique of writing used in the first one or two sentences of a book to both entice the readers to continue reading and introduce them to the content of the book
Bear in mind that this sentence has to be related to the book in some way and not just a blatant opening statement. Otherwise, readers will lose interest and move on.
There are also different types of hook writing when creating a hook that factors into the tone and style of writing. Take a look at the list below.
6 Styles to Hook a Reader With
1. The Quote Hook
If you know of or have a quotation that fits into your story and its niche, then this might be the best way to start. For example, a book on infamous murderers throughout the centuries could start with:
“My consuming lust was to experience their bodies. I viewed them as objects, as strangers.” ⁓ Jeffrey Dahmer
2. The Musing Question
These are thoughts that a writer has, employing philosophy or humor. So, if you were wondering: “What if no one had eyebrows?” that would be musing.
3. The Shocking Statement
You can use a shocking statement (it can be good or bad, depending on the content of your book) to inspire your reader to want to find out how you are going to prove or disprove the statement. In the 1986 horror novel by Stephen King called IT, his first sentence is “The terror that would not end for another 28 years if it ever did, began so far as I can know or tell, with a boat made from a sheet of newspaper floating down a gutter swollen with rain.” Does that not leave you asking what terror?
4. The Statistical Hook
This approach is usually incorporated when writing non-fiction articles. For a fantasy novel with, “Did you know that 78% of fairies were killed off during the magical wars?” This is not tempting enough for readers to believe. But, if it were one of the characters in the book stating that in a monologue, then it may be possible to use this approach.
5. The Open-ended Question
Not to be confused with a musing question, this approach emphasizes the question that answers itself or doesn’t require an answer, such as a rhetorical question. For example, you could start your first chapter by having the character ask: “There is no hope for me, is there?”
6. The Anecdote
This kind of hook is associated with memoirs or personal short stories, so the opening statement would be one of reminiscence such as “My Jinxy only ever came outside when it rained, just so I had to clean up after him” being said by the character of your book about their cat. It also needs to be in past tense, so you are telling the reader that something happened to the cat, but the story isn't given away by saying how. Thus hooking the reader into carrying on reading.
Although these 6 types will give you an idea of which direction you want to take, there are certain elements to creating the perfect hook that would benefit you to have a look at.
First Chapter Writing Tips
The first chapter of any book is the deciding factor of whether you keep the attention of your reader, or if they lose interest and never read further. In order to create a great chapter of writing, you need to familiarize yourself with the sections or structure of a book and what should be involved.
Once you know what a book is made up of, then you will be able to know what you should and shouldn't do in your first chapter.
The Do’s and Don’ts of First Chapter Writing
The Should Do’s
The Shouldn’t Do’s
● Introduce the main character to your readers
● Follow a structure or schedule
● Make sure you have proper punctuation and grammar
● Write down your thoughts
● Learn from best-selling authors
● Use a writing aid
● Do share your work with friends or family and ask their opinions
● Do your research so that you know what you are talking about
● Create an outline to stop you from getting sidetracked
● Keep it short and to the point
● Join a writing class
● Don't try and lure your readers in with false beginnings
● Don't give away the storyline
● Don't let pride get in the way if you need help
● Don't be afraid to start over
● Don’t keep your work a secret
● Don't overwrite your prose
● Don't be inconsistent
● Don't leave out context
● Don't push yourself into a burnout
We know now what we should and shouldn't do in the first chapter, but what should be in it and how long should it be? Let's have a look at a bit more detail of what is involved.
Great Chapter Writing Elements
You have done your research, and now you have the confidence, but there is more to writing your first chapter than do’s and don’ts. There are certain elements needed that will turn your first chapter into a great first chapter.
- A Great Introduction
- A Relatable and engaging character
- A distinctive and compelling voice
- An ideal starting point
- A realistic scene
- An intensifying conflict
- An appropriate hook
- Kindle reader empathy
The first chapter is an average of 3000-4000 words, which gives you enough opportunity to decide on how you are going to grab readers’ attention and hook them into reading further. By using the elements listed above as your guide, you are already well on your way to your first great chapter.
A Readers’ Attention
There is always the question of how to keep the attention of a reader once you have it. Most of the answers are given above, but now you need to tap into that research and figure out what keeps readers interested.
Various writing techniques can be used in your book depending on the niche. This is a good list to have on hand:
Three different types of irony can be used, such as:
- Dramatic Irony where the reader knows more about the characters’ situation than he does
- Verbal Irony, which is what we know today as a form of sarcasm
- Situational Irony is when the result of a situation is not one that was expected
Whether the symbols used are cultural, contextual, universal, or even an archetype, they help the reader get a visual imagery of the story—almost as if they feel they are in the story.
This is when everything in the book, be it characters, events or objects, form a symbolic meaning or lesson that is being conveyed.
Imagery is either physical imagery or a description that gives the reader a personal perspective on what is happening.
Using metaphors is similar to the figure of speech only in the comparison, there are no implied words such as ‘like’ or ‘as’.
A simile is the direct opposite of a metaphor, where the writer creates a comparison between two things by using the words ‘like’ or ‘as’.
Anything that you want to exaggerate is hyperbole and is usually heard in everyday speech. For example, “finally you get here-you said you were almost here 5 hours ago”.
Another comparing technique is used, but instead of using comparison, the writer takes a human characteristic and applies it to an object or animal.
These are a few of the techniques that can be used depending on your niche. The best advice here is that you have a look at classes or lessons in your genre and sign up for one, as they are more focused and in-depth with explanations and examples.
You now know all about hooks, how to write and apply them, as well as writing according to what the reader wants.
It may seem like there are many boring or unnecessary tasks involved with writing the first chapter and even the rest of the book, but it is all-important, and you will thank yourself one day.
Now, there was a secret promised that has yet to be told, but we won't keep it from you any longer.
The secret to writing a great first chapter and how to hook a reader is to make sure that it is the last chapter you write. Try it and see for yourself.