Tirzah L. Goodwin
author of Love and Lighter Fluid: Poems of a Wild Tirzah
Do you want people to read your stories?
The first sentence of your story will decide if your reader will read more or not. Most readers will give you two sentences (at the most) to get their attention. Yikes! That’s not a lot of time. So how do you give your opening a hook to catch their attention?
There are several types of hooks for stories but I’m going to tell you about the three most popular ones: Teaser Hooks, Action Hooks, and Humor Hooks.
The first type of hook is a Teaser Hook. A teaser will put a question in the mind of the reader that has to be answered. If you open your story with, “On the morning of John’s death, he scrambled eggs for breakfast” , the reader will wonder how does John die.
What makes this opening even more interesting is that John is doing something ordinary like making breakfast. The reader will wonder how John goes from making eggs to dying.
The Teaser Hook always creates multiple questions in the mind of the reader. It excites their curiosity.
The second type is an Action Hook. This type of hook starts in the action. If there is a murder, it starts with the murder. If there is a car accident, it starts with the car accident.
But don’t be overly dramatic with this type of opening, try to surprise the reader by being a little sneaky. It’s always nice if you can surprise the reader with the action. Let the character be doing something normal, so that both the reader and the character can be shocked by what happens.
An example of an Action Hook would be, “Alice was bending down to pick up a penny from the sidewalk when a shopping cart slammed into the old lady.”
All readers are curious. They want to know why the shopping cart hit the lady. What was a shopping cart doing on the sidewalk? Once you get your reader asking questions, they can’t help but read on to find the answer. Action always has a reaction. They want to view that reaction.
After all, if you see a car accident happen, do you you ignore it or look? You look. This is why an Action Hook works so well.
Where the Teaser Hook hints about what will happen, the Action Hook shows you what happened.
The third type of hook is the Humor Hook. If you can’t get your reader to ask questions, make them laugh. There are very few people who hate to have a good time. If your reader can get a giggle from your opening sentence, they will read more.
Example: ‘I asked for a computer for my twelfth birthday, I got a nanny goat.”
Most people will snicker at the thought of getting a goat instead of a computer. The reader will continue reading to find out what other outrageous things happen.
These three hooks will be the ones you use most often when writing. If your not sure if your hook works, then ask yourself the following:
A) Will my reader laugh?
B) Will my reader be curious?
C) Is my action interesting? Is it sneaky?
If you can’t say yes to one of those questions, you probably need to rewrite your opening line.
And have fun. Writing should be fun for you and the reader.A Grea