On Writing, Plot & Structure

Novelists: Step 4 (cont.) – ‘Hook’ Your Reader

May 27, 2012

Put yourself in a reader’s place.

You’re looking for a new book to read – specifically, a novel. You have about a kazillion novels from which to choose – classics, new imprints, self-pubbed, ebooks, hardcovers, softcovers, books that have been around for a while but that you’ve never gotten around to reading – books with enticing titles and/or covers, books with themes and subject matter that spark your interest.

You, the reader, need to make a decision. However, once you do, you know you will be investing hours of your precious leisure time – time you could use to get chores done, to perhaps earn overtime pay, to meet with friends, to watch that new movie everyone’s talking about, to attend that concert (rock or pop), to shop, to visit Gran, etc. You also know you’ll have to plunk down $10, $20, or $30 of your hard-earned cash.

So you want to pick a winner. You want quality and value for your investment of time and money.

Now, author person, how do you make a reader who is in this sitch, choose your book over the competition?

Here’s how:

Right from the start, right from the first page, you promise the reader an amazing journey, a journey she will kick herself for if it’s something she misses. You promise her a journey that includes wit, tears and laughter, action and depth, an emotional wallop, insight, suspense, and maybe even closure for her own psychic wounds via fictional surrogate.

In the best case, you promise the reader all of the above.


Here’s the tried and true way:

Create a compelling “Hook.” What is a Hook?

More specifically, what is a successful Hook?

– Simply stated, the Hook is/are the opening line(s) of your novel written in such a way that the reader is drawn to keep reading your work. It can be one sentence long, two or more sentences long, or a whole paragraph – or more – long. Shorter is better.

– The hook draws the reader in. This means it either enchants/charms the reader, tantalizes her, makes her laugh, puzzles her, piques her interest, and/or sparks her curiosity in such a way that she keeps on reading.

Here are some examples of great Hooks:

“When I wake up, the other side of the bed is cold. … Prim must have had bad dreams and climbed in with our mother. Of course, she did. This is the day of the reaping.” – Suzanne Collins, Hunger Games

“Mr. and Mrs. Dursley … were proud to say they were perfectly normal, thank you very much. They were the last people you’d expect to be involved in anything strange or mysterious, because they just didn’t hold with such nonsense.” – J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

“Renowned curator Jacques Sauniere staggered through the … museum’s Grand Gallery. He lunged for the nearest painting he could see … heaved the masterpiece toward himself until it tore from the wall and Sauniere collapsed backward in a heap beneath the canvas.” – Dan Brown, The Da Vinci Code

“Tell me, O Muse, of that wily hero who traveled far and wide after he sacked the famous town of Troy. … He suffered much while trying to save his own life and bring his men safely home.” – Homer, The Odyssey


The above post is an excerpt from Jessica Hatchigan’s How to Write a Pageturner Novel, available via Amazon.com. All rights reserved.

Watch Jessica Hatchigan’s video tutorial – “How Bestselling Authors Create Pageturner Novels: Plot & Structure” instantly on your PC, Mac, compatible TV or device via Amazon.com’s instant video.

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