How to Write Good Hooks for Stories
Tips for Drawing Your Reader Into a Story
All good stories need a hook—an interesting angle early in the story—that draws the reader in. In journalism, your hook is what makes the story relevant to the reader and grabs their attention long enough to get them to keep reading.
For example, if you're writing a story on dating, you need to ask yourself why it may be relevant at this moment. Why should the reader care? Has dating changed? If so, how? To an extent, your hook answers the "why" of the Five Ws in journalism and prompts the reader to continue reading in hopes that you will answer the other burning questions regarding the what, when, where, why, and who of the story.
Writing Good Hooks for Stories and Articles
If you ever started reading an article and found yourself thinking that the first few sentences were so intriguing or thought-provoking that you couldn't stop reading, that wasn't an accident. Aside from being an interesting story, it was probably a hook sentence that grabbed you and pulled you in.
Even though there's no particular formula for writing the perfect hook sentence, there are ways you can approach all of your stories to draw your audience in, hold their attention, and leave them hankering for more.
The 3 Questions to Ask
1. For whom are you writing?
Your audience matters when it comes to crafting your hook. Consider what is going to catch someone's attention based on their age, gender, and possible interests. If you are writing for a teen magazine, your audience is going to be vastly different from an audience of engineers and programmers.
2. What is important to your audience?
Think about the type of story you are writing and where it is going to appear. If you write for an arts and crafts magazine, your readers will value different things than readers interested in fitness blogs do.
Questions to ask yourself before writing a hook include:
- Does your story solve a particular problem for a specific audience group?
- Do you want to tell people something interesting about yourself or a product?
- Is your reader in search of specific information?
- Do you want to show your audience that you understand a particular topic?
- Is your story meant to entertain or educate?
3. What news is currently trending?
Because your hook must take into account why your story is relevant, it's also important to know what other hot issues are currently trending in the media. Turn simple story ideas into hot topics by infusing your hook with a trending topic.
For example, if you write for a cooking blog for college students, and the trend getting the most media attention is expensive ostrich meat, then your hook could be about ways to cook inexpensive chicken so that it tastes like ostrich meat. Your hook sentence (or paragraph) might start with a personal story about how much your roommate loves expensive ostrich meat, but that you were able to trick your roommate into thinking your cheap chicken recipe was an ostrich—all thanks to your grandmother's secret recipe. From that point on, your readers can't help but keep reading to know what this secret recipe is.
Where to Start
A great hook starts with a subject (what you are writing about) and then launches into an interesting angle (i.e., your unique approach to the subject). A strong hook sentence or paragraph might include any one of the following:
- An intriguing question.
- A descriptive, vivid word picture of the scene
- A mysterious situation that the reader just has to get to the bottom of
- A startling fact
- An inspiring quote
You can also turn to movies and TV shows for inspiration. Think about the opening scene of your favorite movie and consider how you can write a hook that has the same effect.
Last but not least, once you have come up with a hook, consider your wording, prose, and writing style. Be sure to go back and edit, rephrase, and rewrite until you get it right. Writing a good hook means writing well, right from the start.