A Great Hook in Writing
Will Grab Your Reader

Man reading essays

Your great hook in writing, if you have one and if it’s a great one, will make a positive impact on your paper. If you don’t have an important hook, focus on making sure you do. Otherwise, your reader may scowl and move on to someone else’s story.

However, if your reader, such as your instructor, must read your story and it doesn’t have a hook, she may “zone out.” This means that her mind may wander elsewhere when it should be solidly on your paper.

How can you make sure she keeps her focus on your paper? The answer is that your great hook in writing has to be attention-grabbing. The first few lines of your story should make your writer perk up. It could be a profound statement, quote, or question to which she yearns to know the answer.

Trottier emphasizes the importance of having a great hook in writing by telling us if the opening scene “captures the reader’s interest in some unique way, it is called the hook. Otherwise, it’s just the opening scene” (13).

Make sure your opening scene is more than just an opening scene. Why waste your precious time writing an opening scene that will fall to captivate your audience?

Your Great Hook in Writing Should Keep Your Reader, Reading

Woman reading a book

Example of a great hook in writing for a story:

“On a refreshingly brisk, beautifully clear fall evening, Amos Decker was surrounded by dead bodies. Yet he wasn’t experiencing the electric blue light sensation that he usually did when confronted by the departed” (Baldacci 1).

The first sentence of this book commands attention. It leads the reader to a series of questions.

  • Is Decker a serial killer?
  • Who are these dead people?
  • What’s Decker’s occupation?
  • Why is he usually confronted by dead people? 
  • Why isn’t he experiencing the electric blue light sensation now?
Confused woman

The hook should lead readers into the woods, that is to say, into the thicket. The reader may have a couple of books in her hands by different authors trying to decide which one to buy. But right now she’s curious about the Amos Decker guy and these dead people with whom he’s surrounded. And dammit! she'll buy the book because she has to know the answer to these questions. In other words, she's hooked.

Of course, your opening scene might not be as dramatic as the one above since you may be writing an academic essay for school. Still, use some creativity to hook your reader and keep her hooked. 

There will be more hooks in your story to lead her deeper into the thicket. Yet at the same time, some of her questions need to be answered along the way. If not, this will lead to her frustration.

To be clear, the art of using the great hook in writing means that it not only applies to writing a book, a screenplay, a short story, or an essay but to writing in general.

An academic board member reads many essays from those who seek admission to her college or university. Many essays will sound the same. They will be in the correct format and will use proper terminology. But theirs may not make a lasting impression in the mind of the board member. Make sure yours does and in a good way.

Woman with many papers

Here’s the first paragraph of an essay with a great hook in writing that I wrote (that is, I trust it's a great hook):

"Once, as a young teen, I ventured into a haunted house on Halloween. It was inky dark inside but uneventful initially. Then I heard a scream and running feet and soon a thud. Moaning came next. I fumbled and stumbled toward the exit. But before I could get there, a chainsaw roared to life beside me. However, the real scary part came with the pain."

This essay should come as a mystery. The reader should have many questions forming in her mind. She is likely to read further to clear up things. After all, who wants to leave loose ends? Here are some of the questions she may have:

  • Was there blood?
  • Was the scream that of a man or a woman?
  • Was the teen’s pain due to the chainsaw?
  • Did something go terribly wrong in the haunted house?
  • Was the scream, the running, and the thud part of the haunted house script?

Remember the great hook in writing when you plan your story or essay. Practice writing hooks. When you read stories, pay attention to them. Can you do a better job than what you just read? 

When you read material that has an awesome hook, note how it leads you to venture further into the story. If a story doesn’t have a hook, notice how your mind wanders or how it leaves you bored or frustrated.

When you notice these factors, you can become critical of your work and realize what it needs to have for you to create a viable story. Everyone can think of interesting details of their lives. Sometimes you may need to think hard, but important details are there.

In other words, get readers hooked, and keep them hooked. Practice until it becomes second nature. Do not overlook this crucial detail in the craft of writing.

Images: Dream by Wombo

Baldacci, David. Redemption. Grand Central Publishing, 2020.

Trottier, David. The Screenwriter’s Bible: A Complete Guide to Writing, Formatting and Selling Your Script. Silman-James, 1998.