H … is for hook.


is for hook.

What do I mean by a hook?

A hook will exist in a variety of writing, from articles, t0 poetry, short stories and novels. It is that magnetic word, or group of words, that grips the attention of a prospective reader or browser, and turns that person into a reader.

My own rule for short stories is to create a hook within the first 30 words. It may go over by one or two, but generally I manage to keep it pretty tight.

Example 1:  Opening lines of my short story, ‘Duty Bound’.

‘Gary felt pain throughout his body.  He opened his eyes and gasped.  A small monkey that had been studying him from six inches away shrieked, and scurried along the high branch.’ (31 words

Example 2:  Opening lines of my short story, ‘Mary had a little gun’.

‘Standing in the remote, disused warehouse; Mary stared through the broken windows.  Her tortured thoughts drifted back briefly, to life before she became a wife and mother.  She had been a different person then. (34 words

When writing a novel, I may not follow the template suggested by the ‘How to …’ books, but I do create a hook within the first 3 – 5 pages. I also create a hook early, and late in each chapter. In a novel, they are better described as cliff-hangers.

I tend not to give the solution to the cliff-hanger too early in the next chapter, preferring in some cases to keep it under wraps for maybe two chapters or more. Some solutions might be kept from the reader for longer, but I make sure the solutions are worthy of such a wait. The key thing is; they must exist to keep the reader going.

A good choice of title, cover, or both, might be enough to capture interest, but the writer must create a recurring interest to keep those pages turning. The story must tease the reader’s inquisitive nature, sometimes allowing the reader to play detective for a while, and then the solution to one issue is overlapped by creating a new one.

Your task as a writer is to entertain and lure the prospective reader into looking beyond the title of the short story, or novel. Tease them into looking at that first page, and then draw them in, line by line, and page by page.

If those hook examples have worked for any of you, those two stories are available on this blog. As always, thank you for reading, and I’ll see you back here for … ‘I’.


2 thoughts on “H … is for hook.

  1. Another very informative and useful post that will no doubt have me scrutinising much of what I’ve already written to look for improvement based on what you’ve said.

    I read the ‘Duty Bound’ story (not sure how i missed that one) – the hook with the monkey really caught my attention, and the pace and detail kept me reading till that brilliant ending! I’ve left a more detailed comment directly at the story itself as well as a few other comments if you want to take a look.

    Referring back to your previous post, what you were saying about connecting with and feeling what you’re writing (combined with where I am and where exactly I’ve been today) was just the prompt and inspiration I needed to write a little piece I’ve wanted to write for awhile, but not till the time felt right. Going back to finish it now…

    Sincere thanks,


  2. Thank you once again for your support and kind comments Paul. I’ve been busy today, and you’ll see that I’ve made the amendments I told you about. My Blogroll is now refreshed, and with perhaps one or two exceptions it consists only of personal sites I will be following.
    All my useful sites, books, etc., are now in the new Resources for Writers menu. It’s still under construction, but getting there.
    Now going to read your thoughts elsewhere. I’m glad you’re enjoying yourself and feeling inspired. Till later …


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