All readers know the feeling of being captivated by a piece of writing straight away. When the first sentence pulls you in, it's much more likely that you'll continue reading.
Many people only read a page or even just few sentences before making a judgement. If they're not hooked, the book often goes back on the shelf.
That’s where a creative writing hook comes into play.
Whether you're a writer of fiction or creative nonfiction, perhaps the greatest chance to increase your odds of getting your writing read is to master this technique. So, what is a creative writing hook?
Put simply, it's something that captures the attention of the reader right away – such as a quote, description, question or intriguing statement.
Most hooks are positioned within the first paragraph, some even in the opening sentence. And an effective, high-quality hook can change a piece of writing completely.
In this article, we'll take a look at why hooks are important in creative writing, how many hooks you need, and what kinds of hooks draw readers in.
Why are hooks important in creative writing?
Since there are so many writers around the globe, it’s important to do what you can to stand out from the crowd.
Aside from the book cover and blurb, hooks generate interested readers more than any other part of a book. If you consistently create good hooks that are assisted by excellent creative writing, you’ll be able to go toe-to-toe with the best writers.
Imagine yourself opening a book such as Harry Potter, or a popular essay from David Foster Wallace. If they didn’t have hooks and an interesting writing style to present them, they wouldn’t be as well-known as they are.
Hooks have become such an essential component of creative writing that it’s odd to see a piece of work without one. Fortunately, it’s still possible to stand out among other writers if you know how to present a hook.
If you notice that everyone in your industry is using quotes, then maybe try a fact or a scene-setting description. Breaking away from everyone else while still using the power of a hook is a great way to make yourself noticeable.
All notable writers have studied and reused ideas of their predecessors, so nobody will be upset if you find something that works (just don’t copy them).
Do you need multiple hooks?
The saying 'The more the merrier' isn’t always true. Some writers believe that they should use all sorts of hooks throughout their writing to keep readers interested.
But rather than being mega-influential, these repetitive hooks can become overwhelming and ultimately lead to disinterest from readers.
For example, if you’re using questions over and over again throughout a series of paragraphs, the effectiveness of them is lost.
However, there’s a way to effectively use multiple hooks throughout your creative writing.
You might notice some writers starting each chapter or section of a book with a quotation that foreshadows the events to come. For example, if the new section is all about the motivation and success of the main character, they might use a quote about pushing through obstacles and conquering odds.
Using hooks in this manner is actually widely accepted in the writing community.
Other than using hooks to set a tone for a section, though, you shouldn’t plug them too often. You can still use metaphors, facts, similes, descriptions, and other writing tools.
What you should avoid is a separated statement at the beginning of each paragraph intended to make a splash.
Examples of creative writing hooks
Let’s review a few of the best examples for you to try in your next creative writing task...
Questions are perfect to use as hooks if you know how to ask them.
The inquiry must be something that everyone can relate to, not just a small niche group of people; otherwise, you’ll forfeit a huge chunk of possible readers. Try something that really digs into the reader’s mind.
Example: Why do so many college students succeed where others fail?
Setting a scene is an important part of fiction writing. We rely on a reader’s imagination to form the visuals that we create.
Describing a scene vividly right away can enchant, entice and ultimately hold readers for the rest of the piece.
Example: It was as calm as any day could’ve been. With the lake sparkling from the morning sun and the trees blowing in the breeze, tranquility filled the air as far as the eye could see.
Using Metaphors and Similes
Both of these tools are some of the most commonly used techniques in writing. Words or descriptions that use ‘as’ or ‘like’ to compare subjects help to familiarise readers with a topic.
These are especially useful hooks if you’re writing about something that doesn’t actually exist.
Example: The dragon’s breath was as hot as lava and red like freshly spilled blood.
Using Facts and Stats
People often think of facts as boring, but they can actually be used to create the best possible hook.
Using statistics that stun readers is a timeless method of piquing peoples’ interest. This can be used most effectively in historical fiction, where the story has some grounding in fact.
Example: Despite countless wars throughout the country’s history, the United States lost more soldiers in the Civil War, a battle with itself, than any other.
Quotes are a quick and effective way of drawing the attention of readers.
If you can properly place a quote at the beginning of your piece, you’ll be able to attract readers from the second they open your work.
Example: “Never throughout history has a man who lived a life of ease left a name worth remembering.” —Theodore Roosevelt
All of these examples will provide wonderful opportunities for you to gain the attention of readers.
Whether you’re writing a short story or the first installment in a long trilogy, creative writing hooks are an absolute must.
There are far more possibilities outside of these five examples.
Remember that a hook needs to be more than an interesting statement; it also has to make your reader want to dive into your writing until the end, fed by consistent plot buffers and so on.
Creative writing hooks are incredibly useful when written correctly.
Use them to shock, stun or attract a reader to something that they didn’t expect. The whole purpose of a hook is to make them want to read more.
When you’re about to write a hook, ask yourself what might make you more likely to read. Treat a writing hook as an effective tool that should only be used sparingly.
The rest of your writing is built off of the attention and emotion gained through the hook!