Writing a Great Hook
The world is coated in a sea of words. We have essays, novels, blogs, scripts, short stories, poetry, speeches, and more. With words vibrating off the atmosphere day in and day out, how can you ever craft something that would lure any number of the billions of people in the world? The answer is simple. Start with a great hook!
Hello, my name is Fidel Andrada
Give readers a reason to pick up your writing or prick up their ears and see your idea through to the end. Hooks are boxed up into one to two sentences and have just enough of a thought-provoking element to entice people to want to read more. Let’s explore how to write a hook and take a look at a few examples that might lead you to your very own creation.
What Is a Hook?
A hook is the line or lines written to lure a reader or listener in and make them want to learn more. It’s an introduction that’s meant to grab hold of people’s attention. In an essay, the hook should fall within the first line or two of the introduction.
In longer works of fiction, such as short stories, novels, plays, and scripts, you can incorporate the hook into the title or write it into one of the opening scenes.
For example, in Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy, we read the following line early on: “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Thought-provoking, right?
How to Write a Catchy Opening
Before you can write a great hook, you must have a clear vision of the message you want to convey. Equally important, be sure you understand your audience and keep them in mind throughout the entirety of your written work.
Will this be a formal piece or something more laid back and conversational? That will influence the tone of your hook. Perhaps you’ll include a stark statistic for something more formal. Meanwhile, you might want to consider a joke to kick things off in a more conversational tone.
Make sure your hook ties into your thesis statement or main idea. So, if you use a quote or a statistic to shock readers into paying attention, be sure it’s directly related to the topic at hand. The same goes for a joke. If you’d like to entice readers with a joke, it must, of course, relate to your thesis.
There are a few options that might serve as a good hook if you feel like you can’t come up with a striking statement on your own. It’s fine to use a quote, offer a statistic, or pose a question as your hook. Let’s take a look at some different options.
Quotes can be a great spark to light the fire. Let’s say you’re writing an essay about a particular author. Why not offer up one of their most poignant quotes? If you were writing a paper about the legendary Ernest Hemingway, you might want to begin with a quote that demonstrates his strength of character:
There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.
Perhaps you’re drafting a persuasive essay. Feature someone prominent in the community you’re discussing and use one of their most striking lines as your hook. If you were writing about the benefits of world travel, you might want to incorporate a line or two from a famous travel TV host, like Rick Steves.
Travel is rich with learning opportunities, and the ultimate souvenir is a broader perspective.
Statistics can play a powerful role in hooks, similar to a quote. If you’re writing a persuasive essay, consider kicking things off with a striking statistic that will blow readers’ minds and encourage them to want to learn more.
You can also use a statistic to disprove a common misconception and then build upon that throughout the rest of your piece. Let’s say you are writing a persuasive piece about the perils of alcohol consumption. You might want to begin with a statistic that paints a dire scene:
According to a recent report from the CDC, alcohol poisoning kills six people every day in the United States. That same report also reveals there are over 15 million people currently struggling with alcohol use disorder.
Consider opening up with a thought-provoking question. Steer clear of yes or no questions, because there’s nowhere to go from there. You can use a question to open up the minds of your readers and churn the wheels of curiosity.
Let’s say you were writing a piece about the different forms of writing. You might want to consider essay writing versus novel writing. This is a great example of a hook, stated clearly in the first line of an essay by Zadie Smith:
Why do novelists write essays? Most publishers would rather have a novel.
A joke can be a great hook for a short story or novel. It will set the tone for the piece and give the readers a sense about the main character. Hopefully, they’ll immediately be drawn to him or her. Here’s an example of a great hook by Paul Hellman that could open up a short story or novel:
“Every night, 20 new people hate my guts,” the big muscular guy said. “On a good night, 30 people.” Then he spit. “I could care less.”
Depending on the nature of your piece, an anecdote can also be an interesting way to hook readers in. Typically, you want to avoid writing in the first person in an essay, but perhaps you have a story you can relay in the third person to lure readers in.
Wendy is a tried and true New Yorker who’s lived there all her life. Yet, even in a city with over 8.5 million people, she’s never been able to shake off the dregs of loneliness.
If you’re writing a narrative essay, an anecdote is the perfect place to start. It has the power to make you instantly relatable to your readers.
Hooks Grab Attention
Hooks come in many shapes and sizes. That means the door is wide open for you to lure readers in. Whenever you’re writing, always keep your audience in mind. This is especially true for the introductory elements, namely the hook and your thesis statement.