After recently finishing a manuscript and immediately starting a new one while editing, I’ve been spending much time examining what’s in a scene. Not only that, what makes a scene strong, full, and worthwhile to a reader. Those topics include setting, dialogue, character goals and so on. But today I’m going to be writing about hooks.
Generally we talk about the hook of the story as the opening line or paragraph of a novel. In addition to that, I’ve also realized the importance of a hook at the beginning and end of each scene.
Writing a good hook results in catching a reader’s attention and making them want to read on. This applies most often to the first line/paragraph of a story but just as importantly to the end of each scene. You want to reach out to the reader, to make them want more.
Here are some elements of a good hook:
It makes the reader ask a question.
If it’s the opening line or paragraph, you want them to ask what’s going on. If it’s the first line or the last line or a scene, you want them to ask what’s going to happen.
It gives the reader a sense of the genre.
This is especially true in the first chapter. If it’s a suspense novel, open with a suspenseful line—draw your reader into the mood. If it’s romance, allude to that in your wording.
It makes the reader want more.
You always want your reader wanting more. There are many successful ways to do this throughout a scene, but writing an effective opening or ending line to a scene is going to propel the reader on. It’s going to make them move to the next paragraph or turn the page because they want to continue.
It drops the reader effectively into a time or place.
A successful first or last line pulls the reader into the moment. This can be done by establishing the setting, time period, etc. or placing the reader directly in the moment of action. Dropping them somewhere interesting or dangerous or different will cause curiosity and make a reader want to continue.
This isn’t an all inclusive list, nor do you have to apply every one of these items. But they’re good things to think about when approaching beginning and ending lines of a scene.
Here are some elements you wouldn’t want to use for a hook:
Always ending a scene with a neatly tied up conclusion. In some cases it works but in most it’s better to end the scene before the conflict is resolved.
Cliché’s. Opening scenes (more specifically the first paragraph of the entire story) with description about the weather or overused settings.
Starting or ending a scene with a hook that’s misleading (make sure it pertains to the story and the genre).
There’s no specific formula for creating a hook and everyone’s tastes are different. But following some general guidelines can help with your key goal—getting a reader interested enough to read more. What kind of rules do you follow to create a successful hook? Do you try to focus on beginning and ending lines or paragraphs to draw a reader in?