Hook Me In the Beginning

Since today is supposed to focus on writing, I thought I’d talk about hooks. So, what is a hook? I love the following definition from Merriam-Webster.

to seize or make fast with a hook

I like this one, too:

. . . for catching, holding or pulling

Both apply when it comes to terms of writing. I’m taking a fiction class this semester where I’m required to write different types of fiction reviews. One of the first things the instructor makes clear is that our review must begin with a hook. This is nothing new to a fiction writer.

From the first time I put pen to paper, I was told to begin with a hook. If you look at the score sheets of writing contest, writer’s are often scored on their beginning hook. I’ve recently judged a few contests, and I have to say, the ones that open with a great hook tend to keep my interest throughout the entry.

A story beginning can hook the reader with one word, a few words or even a paragraph. Of course, the type of hook you use varies with genre.

Let’s look at a few romantic suspense. The following are part of the Love Inspired Suspense line-these are first lines only.

She was caught between a hungry alligator named Boudreaux and a tall drink of water named Anderson. And they both had way too much attitude.

Body of Evidence by Lenora Worth


Running for Cover by Shirlee McCoy

“Cease fire!” U.S. Army Captain Jean Philippe Thibodeaux screamed into the handheld radio microphone from inside his Bradley Fighting Vehicle. The order echoed back to him as the “cease fire” was relayed across the live-fire range to the three platoons involved in the training exercise at Fort Rickman, Georgia.

The Captain’s Mission by Debby Giusti

All three are styled differently. All three leave the reader with a question. Why? Why was she caught between and alligator and Anderson? Why was there pain? Why did the captain yell cease fire? When the reader’s curiosity is aroused enough to ask why, they will want to continue reading.

Now let’s look at a few historical romances.

Cassie wanted to scream, Put down that shovel!

Montana Rose by Mary Connealy

The report of a rifle echoed through the red-walled canyon, ringing in Marshal Danna Carpenter’s chest. A second report sounded close after the first.

Marrying Miss Marshal by Lacy Williams

Someone else was in the house.

An Honorable Gentleman by Regina Scott

“We can’t ask Michael to do it. What would your father say if he found out?”

Rescuing the Heiress by Valerie Hansen

Keeping his six-shooter aimed at the sheriff, Bart Kingsley crouched at the corner of a white picket fence. He was bleeding bad. The bullet that had caught him in the side hurt something awful. But Bart knew he couldn’t let the pain overcome him. He was on a mission to find the woman he loved.

The Gunman’s Bride by Catherine Palmer

This next one is from an historical romance too, but it’s done with a different style. Where the other beginnings seemed to start the reader off in an intense moment, this one is more gentle, but I find that it still engages the reader and again, it makes the reader ask a question, propelling the reader to continue.

Sheena Montgomery stood completely still at the top of Bracklinn Falls. The sound of rushing water filled the gorge. The rock underfoot felt hard and cold, a mirror image of her heart.

Highland Hearts by Eva Maria Hamilton

You may think that hooks are something fairly new to fiction. Think about A Christmas Carol ‘Marley was dead, to begin with.’ And what about The Odyssey?

All the survivors of the war had reached their homes by now and so put the perils of battle and sea behind them. Odysseus alone was prevented from returning to the home and wife he longed for by that powerful goddess, the Nymph Calypso, who wished him to marry her, and kept him in her vaulted cave. Not even when the rolling seasons brought in the year which the gods had chosen for his homecoming to Ithaca was he clear of his troubles and safe among his friends. Yet all the gods were sorry for him, except Poseidon, who pursued the heroic Odysseus with relentless malice till the day when he reached his own country.

Homer’s The Odyssey translated by E.V. Rieu

It’s not your typical hook, but it compels the reader to want to read more. If the gods feel sorry for Odysseus, then shouldn’t the reader? And why does Poseidon pursue the poor man with relentless malice? No matter what genre you write you can create an effective hook. Read the beginnings of your favorite books. Do they hook you?



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