Hook of a Story: Examples + How to Write a Captivating One

Posted on Jul 27, 2023

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Written by Bella Rose Pope

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Without a strong hook of a story, you have to rely on a lot of other elements to keep readers invested in your book. And readers nowadays aren’t all that patient.

We’ve all heard of the idea of making your first sentence really something, but it’s not just your first sentence we’re talking about. The sentence, first paragraph, and overall promise of the book are the important factors to keep in mind if you want to sell your books to readers.

Why does the hook matter?

Imagine walking into a bookstore or scrolling through an online library searching for your next read. With countless options at your fingertips, what will make you choose one book over the others? The answer lies in the hook.

A well-crafted hook creates an emotional connection with the reader and sparks their curiosity, urging them to invest their time in your story. It’s the gateway to a compelling journey that can transport readers to different worlds, times, and emotions.

Keep in mind that the hook is important, yes, but the you have to take into account all the information the reader knows about the hook. Usually, a reader will read the back cover of the book and then the first sentence and paragraph. This is the combination you need to remember, because the back cover information can often inform the reaction of the first sentence.

If the reader knows a character is about to discover a hidden world and the story opens to them building a machine, conflict and intrigue are set.

Let’s take a look at some examples to illustrate the hook of a story.

Hook of a Story Examples & Explanations

One of the best ways to learn is to read what’s worked before and dissect why it worked in the first place. Before we dive into how to write your own hook, here are some examples to take note of:

1. 1984 by George Orwell:

“It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.” – Orwell’s dystopian masterpiece opens with a jarring contradiction that immediately piques the reader’s interest. The striking thirteen clocks suggest something is deeply wrong with this world, setting the stage for a chilling exploration of totalitarianism and thought control.

Right off the bat, readers have questions. Because people are innately curious, they’ll try their best to get those questions answered, and the only way to do that is to keep reading by buying the book.

2. The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka

“As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams, he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect-like creature.” – Kafka’s iconic novella begins with an astonishing premise that captivates readers and leaves them eager to understand the implications of such a bizarre metamorphosis.

3. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” – Austen’s classic novel uses wit and irony to establish the central theme of societal expectations and the pursuit of marriage, instantly drawing readers into the Regency era.

And because readers know what this story will be about by reading the synopsis, they’re immediately intrigued about the overall tone of the story.

4. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

“In my younger and more vulnerable years, my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since.” – Fitzgerald’s elegant prose sets a reflective tone from the start, hinting at the narrator’s inner struggles and setting the stage for a tale of wealth, love, and disillusionment.

It also shows the reader that this advice, while important because it comes from his father, has been running through his mind for a lifetime. What kind of advice would need to be turned over and over again?

5. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.” – Tolkien’s opening sentence is deceptively simple yet inviting, immediately inviting readers into the magical world of Middle-earth and the adventures of Bilbo Baggins. We’re left with multiple questions here, including what the heck is a hobbit and why is it living in a hole in the ground?

Both of these will cause a reader to want to keep reading to find the answer to them.

Crafting the Hook of a Story to Grab & Keep Attention

Creating a captivating hook is both an art and a science. You don’t want the hook of a story to be so complicated that it puts a reader off reading it, and you do want the hook to showcase the tone and style of your story from the very first sentence.

Here are some tips to help you craft a strong hook of a story:

  1. Start with Conflict: Introduce a compelling conflict or mystery that leaves readers hungry for answers. It could be a personal dilemma, an external threat, or an enigmatic event. You could even pose a question, though be careful with this one, as it’s been used so much in the past that it’s not a bit of a cliche to start your story with a question.
  2. Use Vivid Imagery: Paint a vivid picture with your words, immersing readers in your story’s setting and atmosphere from the very beginning. It would be bonus to include elements of the world, time, or setting that aren’t like our own world to make your readers curious about what else the world includes.
  3. Employ Intriguing Dialogue: A snippet of intriguing dialogue can instantly reveal character dynamics and leave readers curious about the context. Plus, this would be like starting in media res, meaning in the middle of the story. Jumping directly into the action is a great way to pull readers in and get them to stay. When there’s excitement from the start, they’ll want to see how that action unfolds.
  4. Tap into Emotions: Invoke emotions right away to create an immediate connection between the reader and your characters. This is like the example from The Great Gatsby above. Including something that would bring about nostalgia, heartbreak, or fear is a great way to write the hook of a story.
  5. Foreshadow Upcoming Events: Offer a glimpse of future events, leaving readers curious about how the story will unfold. This can be done as easily as using something like, “He was in a pickle now, yes, but Richard had no idea what he was about to get himself into.” as the hook of a story. It indicates that there is conflict both now and there will definitely be conflict in the future. Plus, this example especially shows the narration style the reader can expect.

The hook is the gateway to your story’s universe, and a well-crafted one can make all the difference between a book that sits on a shelf and one that becomes a reader’s cherished companion. As writers, let’s embrace the challenge of captivating our audience from the very start, leading them on unforgettable literary journeys they’ll never forget.

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