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The Writer's Compass » About Writing, Writing Exercises » More on Writing Hooks

More on Writing Hooks

A key element of the hook is letting people know what your story is going to be about, giving them an idea of what you want to say. This comes in two forms: the theme or the dramatic question. You can say something through a narrative comment or through the voice of one of your characters that in a phrase gives the reader an indication of what your story will be about, the theme. The other format would be to use a question in the hook that asks what you are putting out there to explore in your story. Both of these should be organic to the story and not stand out as the author trying to say something rather than evolving as part of the story being told.

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.

This is the first line of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. “…a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife” is one of the themes of the book.

In Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer, in the first few lines Aunt Polly searches and calls for Tom:

“What’s gone with that boy, I wonder? You TOM!”

This question is a good indicator of what the story will be about—Tom and where he’s gone and what he’s up to and who he is.

To weave the meaning of your story into the opening and intrigue the reader with what your story will reveal about life or the truths you feel important, generally comes after writing the story and fully understanding what you are writing about. It also means honing in on just what your theme is and what you are trying to say or what dramatic question you are asking in this story you are spending so much time writing.

Write your hook whenever you have it in mind, but don’t become set on it until after you have written the complete story. Always go back to the hook and ask yourself:

      • Now that the whole story has been written, is this opening still appropriate?
      • What has changed that should be reflected in the opening?
      • What do I now know about the story that I can use to hook the reader?
      • Does the hook reflect the genre, ambiance, setting, and characters?
      • Is the opening intriguing? Will it draw the reader in to want to read more?

Writing Exercise:

Try throwing out the opening you originally wrote and writing something completely different with a new approach. Sometimes when you take a different tact, you surprise yourself with a better idea.

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