The Secrets of Story Structure, Pt. 2: The Hook

Readers are like fish. Smart fish. Fish who know authors are out to get them, reel them in, and capture them for the rest of their seagoing lives. But, like any self-respecting fish, readers aren’t caught easily. They aren’t about to surrender themselves to the lure of your story unless you’ve presented them with an irresistible hook.

Our discussion of story structure very naturally begins at the beginning—and the beginning of any good story is its hook. Unless you hook readers into your story from the very first chapter, they won’t swim in deep enough to experience the rest of your rousing adventure, no matter excellent it is.

What is a hook?

The hook comes in many forms, but stripped down to its lowest common denominator, the hook is nothing more or less than a question. If we can pique our readers’ curiosity, we’ve got ‘em. Simple as that. The beginning of every story should present character, setting, and conflict. But, in themselves, none of these represent a hook. We’ve created a hook only when we’ve convinced readers to ask the general question, “What’s going to happen?” because we’ve also convinced them to ask a more specific question, such as “What scary reptilian monster killed the worker?” (Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton) or “How does a city hunt?” (Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve).

Where does the hook belong?

Structuring Your Novel: Essential Keys for Writing an Outstanding StoryBecause your ability to convince the reader to keep reading is dependent on your hook, it must be present as early as possible in your first scene. In fact, if you can get it into your first line, so much the better. However, the hook must be organic. Teasing readers with a killer opening line (“Mimi was dying again”) only to reveal all is not as seems (turns out Mimi is an actress performing her 187th death scene) not only negates the power of your hook, it also betrays readers’ trust. And readers don’t like to be betrayed. Not one little bit.

Examples from film and literature

Now that we’ve got a basic idea of what a hook is and where it belongs, let’s consider a few examples. I’ve selected two movies and two books (two classics and two recent), which we’ll use as examples throughout this series, so you can follow the story arc as presented in popular and successful media. Let’s take a look at how the professionals hook us so successfully we never realize we’ve swallowed the worm.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (1813): Austen begins by masterfully hooking us with her famous opening line, “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.” The subtle irony gives us a sense of conflict from the very first and lets us know that neither the wife in search of the fortune nor the man in search of the wife will find their goals so easily. Austen deepens the pull of her hook in her opening paragraph by further highlighting the juxtaposition of her opening statement with the realities of her plot, and then deepens it still further in the entirety of the opening scene, which introduces readers to the Bennet family in such a way that we not only grow interested in the characters, but also realize both the thrust of the plot and the difficulties of the conflict.

It’s a Wonderful Life  directed by Frank Capra (1947): Capra opens with a successful framing device that hooks the reader with a sneak peek of the climax. The movie opens at the height of the main character’s troubles and immediately has us wondering why George Bailey is in such a fix that the whole town is praying for him. Next thing we know, we’re staring at an unlikely trio of angels, manifested as blinking constellations. The presentation not only fascinates us with its unexpectedness, it also succinctly expresses the coming conflict and stakes and engages the reader with a number of specific need-to-know questions.

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card (1977): The opening line to Card’s acclaimed science-fiction novel is packed with hooking questions: “‘I’ve watched through his eyes, I’ve listened through his ears, and I tell you he’s the one. Or at least as close as we’re going to get.’” Just like that, Card’s got us wondering how the speaker is watching and listening through someone’s else’s mind, who is the one, what is the one supposed to do, and why are they settling for a “one” who is less than perfect? He then successfully builds his killer opening into a scene that introduces his unlikely hero, six-year-old Ender Wiggin, just as his life is about to change forever.

Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World directed by Peter Weir (2004): As a brilliant adaptation of Patrick O’Brian’s beloved Aubrey/Maturin series, this movie is unusual in a number of areas, not least in its non-formulaic tone and plot. Nevertheless, it follows the requirements of structure to a T, beginning with its stark opening, showing the morning ritual aboard the man of war HMS Surprise. Aside from arousing our natural curiosity about the unique setting, the hook doesn’t appear until a minute or so into the film when one of the sailors spots what might be an enemy ship. The film never slows to explain the situation to the reader. It carries them through a few tense moments of uncertainty and indecision, then, almost without warning, plunges them into the midst of a horrific sea battle. Viewers are hooked almost before they see the hook coming.

Takeaway value

So what can we learn from these masterful hooks?

1. Hooks should be inherent to the plot.

2. Hooks don’t always involve action, but they always set it up.

3. Hooks never waste time.

4. Hooks almost always pull double or triple duty in introducing character, conflict, and plot—and even setting and theme.

Our hook is our first chance to impress readers, and like it or not, first impressions are usually make or break territory. Plan your hook carefully and wow readers so thoroughly they won’t ever forget the moment your story first grabbed them.

Stay tuned: Next week, we talk about the First Act.

Tell me your opinion: How early in your story is your hook found?

Related Posts: The Secrets of Story Structure, Pt. 1: Why Should Authors Care?

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K.M. Weiland lives in make-believe worlds, talks to imaginary friends, and survives primarily on chocolate truffles and espresso. She is the IPPY and NIEA Award-winning and internationally published author of the Amazon bestsellers Outlining Your Novel and Structuring Your Novel. She writes historical and speculative fiction from her home in western Nebraska and mentors authors on her award-winning website.

Comments

  1. Great post. Love the examples. My hook is in the first chapter for sure. My first manuscript it takes a few pages because editors who critiqued it said that the story should start in the main character’s world before the hook. That is sometimes true with fantasy.

    My second book starts right out with it. It works well with that story.

  2. In fantasy, sometimes the world itself can be the hook. Fantasy readers love their settings. Lengthy descriptions usually won’t cut it, but introducing interesting facets of the world building can be just enough to grab a reader’s attention.

  3. Excellent examples. My latest is on the first page, possibly the first sentence. My last book however the hook didn’t come til the end of the 1st chapter.

  4. Glad to hear that in Fantasy, the world itself can be a hook. My next work started out as a question, “What would it be like to live in a world of dolls?” Then I worked on the premise which helped me find my hook! All The Pretty Dolls

    Thanks for the great post, K.M.

    Cheers,
    Anna Soliveres

  5. @Mshatch: Sometimes we will find that we can begin with a mini hook that grabs readers until we can give them the true kicker.

    @Anna: Sounds like a great premise! Really, the only requirement of the hook is that it create a spark of interest in the reader – and there are so many ways we can do that.

  6. My hook is in first scene when Jordan (MC) is unexpectedly sucked into a void of psychic energy…
    In next scene he is turned from spirit to mortal in a hope to keep reader hooked on his plight and question just who his captor is (Like power wise)

    My hook (For query letter) reads:
    “When Jordan is sucked through a vortex making spirit mortal once again he knows he is in trouble. His captor wants Jordan to perform but just who he is and how he has trapped a spirit in physical needs finding out. Jessica is a viewer who wants to help but becomes hopelessly entangled in a world of dreams she had no idea existed.”

    Any good?

  7. You’re raising questions that should definitely pique readers’ curiosity. For the sake of the query, you might want to make it immediately clear what the phrase “making spirit mortal once again,” since it’s not clear how he became spirit (rather than mortal) in the first place.

  8. lol he died… Yeah I’ll change that bit!!

  9. The very fact that he’s dead and comes back is a good hook in itself.

  10. I try to hook readers within the first paragraph.. and if not by then, I certainly hook them by the second paragraph.

    Thanks for some tips to help me organize my hooks a little better.. 😀

  11. Mine is a serial killer thriller (and no, I’m not a poet also LOL), and the hook comes in the 8th paragraph, if you count two “paragraphs” that are only one line each. I’ve rewritten the first couple pages many times over the years (yep, years!), but the hook has always been what it is, where it is. It’s one of the few things I’ve been sure about from the very beginning.

  12. The whole reason I took on the monumental challenge of writing a novel is because the first vision I had of the characters hooked ME. I was the one losing sleep and asking myself: who are these people, why did this happen to them, and how will they respond? That vision became chapter one, with the hook currently taking place at about the 600 word mark. My quest to find out more about everyone involved, where they come from, what is going on and why it matters is what kept me writing. I hope someday it will keep readers reading!

  13. @Gideon: First paragraphs are an art form in themselves! Glad you found the post helpful.

    @Nikki: Sometimes we just *know* about the hook. When it’s one of the earliest things we write – when it’s a concrete concept even before we start writing – that’s usually a good sign of its power.

    @Abby: That’s a great way to look at it. If we can figure out what hooks *us* about this particular story, we can use those same elements to snag the readers.

  14. Thanks Katie, this gave me literally hours to think about. I ended up writing a blog post in response because I had too much to say (or meander through, depending on one’s perspective and my inconclusive conclusion). The response can be found at here: http://brokengirl.info/2012/03/04/hook-plot-and-sinker/

  15. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts, London! Off to read your post.

  16. I’ve tried to pose a number of little hooking questions throughout Chapter One. On the first page I have “What is the treasured object in the heroine’s pocket, and what is its significance?” and “What answers is she seeking in her life?”

    But I consider my MAIN hook to be, at around page 6, “Who is the menacing man on the horse, and why has he set his dogs on her?” 😀

  17. @London – I read your post. 🙂 The passages from your story certainly made me want to read more. 🙂

  18. My hook is my first sentence, then my inciting incident comes at the end of the first chapter — I’m thinking that may leave readers feeling a bit “thrown into it”, with not enough time to connect with the characters before things are off and running. Hmmm, not sure….

  19. @Happy Odd Girl: Sometimes it just doesn’t make sense to bring the hook in from the very first. So long as we have little hooks pulling the reader along until we can snag them with the BIG HOOK, that’s all that counts.

    @Shari: The placement of the inciting event is crucial. It will get one or two posts of its own here in a few weeks!

  20. This is one of the best definitions of ‘hook’ that I’ve read.
    I’ve had ‘little hooks’ on the first page of a MS and I’ve had the ‘big hook’ in the first paragraph of another MS. Seems I get better response from beta readers with the hook in the first paragraph.

    Totally agree with the ‘teaser hook,’ it leaves me flat and I don’t want to read books by that author again. It’s a lazy way to write.

  21. Teaser hooks are surprisingly prevalent, but as I mentioned in another post, they’re nothing but a lie to the reader.

  22. Definitely within the first chapter. There’s a lot of questions: Who is the man that died in the vacant house? Why was he there? Why does the MC still wear an engagement ring when her fiancé is dead? And did the MC really see her former college roommate at the scene, reporting the crime for a TV news station?

  23. Mysteries are some of the best at utilizing their hooks right away. Book opens. Dead body. Bam. Instant questions.

  24. Definitely. Probably why I like the genre so much.

  25. That’s absolutely a drawing card for most readers, I would think.

  26. Beginnings. Getting the reader to go past the first page is always a challenge. I’ve rewritten my opening paragraph a few times to try to include the hook in those first few words. Was I successful? I’ll let my beta readers decide. 😉

  27. I rewrite my beginnings more than any other part of the story (endings can sometimes be a close second). They’re tough to get right because there’s just so much we have to incorporate to make them work.

    • Sally M. Chetwynd says:

      Not that I have much experience with beginnings and endings in fiction, but from what I do have, and from reading posts by others, beginnings and endings are often the toughest. I’ve had to noodle around to find the ending for both my published novel and my work in progress. Especially on this current work, once I discovered the ending, it enabled me to clarify the premise of the story so I can develop details throughout the story that point toward that ending.

      Beginnings are something like a detailed table of contents in a scholarly text – you can’t really finalize the table of contents until the body of the book is complete, at which time you can then update the table with all the stuff that your book needed that wasn’t in the original outline of the table.

  28. Very interesting post! In my currently released novel Ghosts on the Red Line, the hook appears in the first chapter when a boy on a Boston Red Line subway train witnesses another passenger interacting, apparently, with a person the boy can’t see or hear. However, in the current version of the prequel novel that I’m writing now, I’m breaking the early-hook rule — first chapter describes the demolition of a rural village in China (this sets up the crime that happens later), and second chapter describes the refusal of a Hong Kong tycoon to fund his son’s business venture (which results in consultant Harry West’s invitation to Hong Kong, where he encounters & must resolve the crime). I’m still working on this… maybe I’ll find a way to plant the hook earlier.

  29. We always have to have *some* kind of hook in the first chapter, preferably on the first page. This doesn’t always have to be the “official” hook, although I always prefer the hook to be integral to the plot. However, we have to give the reader at least a small reason to keep reading.

  30. Angela Craven says:

    You mean taping fish hooks onto the first page isn’t how to do it?

  31. Only if you’re going to include a box of Band-Aids in the cost of the book!

  32. Great post and great examples. Now, I’ve seen many stories where the first scene is some event that happens way ahead in the story. The following scene goes back in time to tell what happened to bring the protagonist to the situation presented in the very first moments.
    For me this is a powerful hook and maybe the only solution for some plots, where the overall idea is too complex to be presented in a fez paragraphs without running the risk of losing the reader.
    What is your opinion about this kind of strategy?
    Thank you again for your books, blogs, videos.
    Greetings from Brazil.
    Marcos

  33. After a short prologue (actually just a short newspaper article describing an apparent suicide), my hook is sentence one:

    Matt Lanier drove south on Interstate 35 and struggled with fact he was more happy than sad that his father might be dead.

    Of course, this is my third chapter one, so there’s no guarantee this one will stay. 🙂

  34. @Marcos: I wrote a post on the “flashfoward” not too long ago. In a nutshell, I agree that it can be a very effective hook when done well. The trick is to make sure that the tension in the flashforward pays off when the reader actually reaches that point in the story. Nothing is worse than feeling an author tricked us by making us *think* something tense was happening when it really wasn’t.

    @ChiTrader: It’s a good one. You immediately introduce us to the character, the plot, and his inner conflict.

  35. Best story structure analysis I ever stumnbled upon is at http://www.clickok.co.uk/index4.html

  36. Thanks for sharing! I’ll check it out.

  37. This might be a stupid question, but if a book is part of a series does it’s hook question need to be answered within that book or is alright to answer it in a subsequent book? I’m struggling with the rewrite of my first novel and I’m trying to find a hook that is answered within the first book.

  38. It really depends on the hook. It’s absolutely possible that the initial hook question can be strong enough to last throughout the series. However, smaller hook questions will have to be introduced and definitively answered within each book. The trick is to balance the reader’s need to keep reading with his potential frustration over not learning the answers at the right time.

  39. Thanks K.M. for another brilliant post.

    I couldn’t agree with you more about the importance of a hook, especially when you are trying to draw readers in quickly. With the endless amount of options – both in bookstores and online – for the reader to choose, your book needs to stand out and get them asking “What happens next?”. The first person to read it will most likely be an editor and they don’t have time to read 40 pages in to find out when the story starts.

    Thanks for being an inspiration and teacher to this new writer and blog owner.
    A Writer’s Journey

  40. Glad you enjoyed the post! The hook is all-important. Sometimes we just have to figure out what hooked *us* in our stories, then figure out how to share that in our opening pages.

  41. I’ve been reading through various posts on your web site, and they are very insightful. I will be referencing them.

    My character finds that her boyfriend had stashed his gun in her car before she moved to college. He leaves a note saying, “You’re in the BIG city now, so I figured you’d need some protection.”

    She assumes it’s sarcasm because she used to live in New York City. She moved to a small town of 1,100 when she was 16, and now she has moved to a town of around 60-70,000. But she starts pondering if it’s not sarcasm and he’s being honest.

    Would you consider that a hook? The main question readers could have is why or from what does she need protection.

  42. Yes, that could definitely be your hook. I would be careful to play it so that the protagonist has some immediate (and not easily resolved) questions about the gun. Let her immediately ask the questions you want your readers to ask.

  43. Thanks for the feedback! I’m considering leaving out the note. She will recognize it because she has shot it before at a gun range. I’ll just see what happens when I rework that scene in the next step.

  44. Glad to help!

  45. I have actually tried to plant one in my very first paragraph. But am not sure now, since my story has so many points to get started. I have decided to rewrite it right, after finishing my first draft. (Which is a sort of way too detailed outline, or a skeleton of the story)

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      Even though I outline extensively, I often have to go back and tweak by beginning after finishing the first draft.

      • Yeah! Its simpler to dive straight in and than, after getting the darn thing on the paper, think of a proper hook. Since until this point, you have all of your story in front of you and a whole idea what questions are applicable at the beginning.
        So, lets see how it all work out for me 🙂
        I am really confused and scared and excited at the moment. You know, the beginners anxiety! You have been there 🙂

  46. Hi KM,

    I get your point here, but I’m also finding it a little confusing. I feel like there’s a difference between “hooking your reader” and the structural element of your story called the Hook (capital H).

    A great first line (a great first paragraph, a great first 5 pages) is supposed to draw your reader in (hook her), but the story’s Hook is supposed to be kind of a deeper “oh wow” or even, in some cases, an OMG moment, isn’t it? Sometimes your Hook is also your inciting event, and that’s a bit lower down in the % of the story, structurally. I think you even mention this in your book… or was it Larry Brooks? I’m not sure… it’s been awhile and I read a lot of structure books and blogs! 🙂

    I never looked at the first line Pride and Prejudice as its Hook. I looked at it as a first line writing method called “the universal truth.” (Heck, it even references the universal truth!) Other authors use this type of opening line, too. Writer’s Digest even lists this as a type of opening line.

    I’m not saying that the opening line can’t or shouldn’t be the Hook, btw, I just feel that it isn’t necessary. Opening lines/paragraphs/scenes should be great and draw the reader in, but they don’t really need to be or contain the Hook, do they?

    Also, there can be a huge difference between a story’s first scene and it’s first chapter as far as length and structural function, so it seems kind of arbitrary to say your Hook should be in the first scene. It’s a bit easier for me wrap my brain around when you use percentages to talk about where structural elements belong. I thought I read somewhere (again, you or Larry, or maybe in WD) that your hook should pop in around 10-12%.

    I’d be interested to know where you found the Hook for a book like Outlander (Diana Gabaldon) to be (if you’ve had a chance to read it).

    With respect and a desire to learn… Diogeneia

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      The turning point you’re thinking about at the 12% mark is the Inciting Event (as per this post: https://www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com/your-books-inciting-event-its-not-what-you-think-it-is/). We do find some arbitrary references to the hook as being several different things (most notably the high concept part of the premise that will grab agents and browsing readers: https://www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com/how-to-pitch-your-novel/). But structurally speaking, the Hook in the opening scene is the event that will grab readers. The first line isn’t the Hook in and of itself; it’s part of the larger whole of the scene. Think of the first line as the first of many hooks that will create the larger picture of the capital-H “Hook” that will grip readers in the first scene and pull them into the story.

      The Hook is, structurally speaking, one of the smallest integers. You’re right that it’s almost more of a technique than a structural moment. But you can’t create a good story without it, so we’d be remiss to leave it out of any structural discussion.

  47. I’ve tried to throw a few ‘hooks’ in to the first paragraph, but after many tries not sure whether I have it. I’ve read many posts from different sites and it’s definitely not easy. Hope this gets it looking better:

    “Mark Bishop sighed deeply as he placed the urn next to the other three in his study, glanced at David’s boxes on the floor and slowly walked to the office.
    “So what’s been happening while I was at the funeral?” Mark asked as he slumped in the armchair opposite the one Bill Marsh, his farm manager was sitting.
    Bill told him the replacement tax advisor would be coming on Friday, “The new ‘un apparently has a farming background and is supposed t’know how to get grants an ‘all.”
    “Well, the last chap was bloody useless. If the idea of tax breaks or grants ever entered his mind it left at the speed of light. You’d have thought he worked for the damn Tax Man!” Mark complained.
    “If they’ve even been around a farm that’ll be an improvement right there.”
    “Yes. Any grants will be really handy as well,” Mark sighed.
    “If yer’d not spent so much adding all them extra rooms t’ farmhouse and all that expensive furniture yer’d a’ bin better off.”
    “Don’t remind me,” he grunted. “I thought it’d be a decent place to live, away from all the bullshit, where I could raise my own family.”
    “Yeah and we know what happened then!” As Mark’s jaw clenched at the reminder, Bill quickly continued, “Anyroad, there’s still quite a bit to do before we let the girls out t’ graze. There’s some fence posts need replacing, the last bit of hedge row to check and …”

  48. Dumar Lianres says:

    So nice! Any kind of example in children’s literature?

  49. I always love your articles like this. Very informative and helpful.
    My hooks are generally at the very beginning of the story. In my opinion, I would think it would help to capture the reader’s interest straight away.
    On the same note, do you think you could judge a few opening lines to my story?
    I’m still working on it, but here’s the main hook I have so far:
    ” Krystal hated the dark.
    Simple as that.
    Someone might say, “Well, that’s a pretty common fear,” and shrug it off, but she felt differently.
    It affected her.
    Badly.
    It affected her ever since she was a child. She couldn’t even remember a time where it didn’t.
    Maybe because she didn’t know what was in it.
    Maybe because there was something in it, and out to get her.
    Or maybe because she didn’t have a shadow herself. “

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      It’s a good hook! Immediately, makes me want to know *why* she’s so afraid of the dark.

  50. Henrietta says:

    So would you say that the hook must be closely related to the moral premise because if the moral premise is a universal truth then should the hook be a universal truth? Does that question make sense? Trying to get this clear in my mind.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      Yes and no. You want to introduce the thematic/moral premise in at least some measure as soon as you can. But it doesn’t necessarily have to be the Hook itself. It’s great when the Hook can pull double and triple duty like that, but in some stories, that’s just going to be asking too much.

      • Henrietta says:

        whew okay thanks that worried me LOL would be no easy task for sure. Thank you! You are such a good teacher! Love left brainers since I lean too far right! Thank you for all your insights. I am creating a template with all your components. I have all your writing books but love this site too.

  51. Is a hook on the third page (double-spaced) to far from the beginning. I have a couple minor hooks but I feel that the major hook is on the third page. I feel like the beginning is good enough to keep the reader interested until they reach the major hook of the story.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      That works as long as there is an immediate hook on the first page that pulls readers in and makes them ask a question. What’s piquing their curiosity up to the point when you get to the “real” hook?

  52. Sally M. Chetwynd says:

    “Who was that,” Greg asked as he and Josie drove away from the dance, “singing, at the end? You know him?”

    His underlying jealousy colored his question.

    These are the first two sentences of my current novel-in-progress. By themselves, they establish conflict that is built upon later in the chapter. This first chapter has been revised from a less dynamic version with less tension. I had had an early first chapter that was more narrative and went into too much backstory – that material is elsewhere in the story. I know this version is much better, but it may yet need further development.

    The following 1300 words establish Greg and Josie as boyfriend-girlfriend and introduces the fact that Josie has second sight. Her odd clairvoyance figures largely in the story, for it connects her metaphysically with the unknown musician at the dance, whom she does not know but is about to meet.

  53. Hannah Killian says:

    Okay, so around 2 1/2 years ago, I got an idea inspired by Ice Age (I think). I think it’s inspired by Three Men and A Baby too.

    Anyways, I came across it again, and decided to give it a try. The trouble is, I can’t figure out if the trio finding the baby (who has been kidnapped from her real parents), is the Hook, the Inciting Event, or the Key Event.

    There’s also the leader’s slight reluctance to take the baby with them because they’re drifters and might be a little on the outlaw side for some reason I haven’t figured out yet. But of course, he does relent, so. . .maybe that’s the Key Event?

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      Take a look at the timing. If you’ve got a turning point placed at each appropriate place in the story, then there’s your answer. If there’s anything missing at any of the timed points, then you know where you need to start juggling.

      Hook: 1%
      Inciting Event: 12%
      Key Event/First Plot (may be the same thing): 20-25%

      • Hannah Killian says:

        How many pages does it take to get to the 12% mark?

        • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

          Depends how many pages will be in the book. 🙂 If you’re planning an outline, you can get a rough estimate by figuring your number of scenes. When I start outlining, I usually have a number of scenes I’m shooting for based on my target word count (for example, 50 scenes in my WIP), then I divide that by eight to know how many scenes should be in each section of the story.

          • Hannah Killian says:

            Maybe I’ll just start writing the Inciting and Key Events, and come back to the Hook later?

          • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

            That’s often what I’ll do in the outline. No reason you can’t do it in the first draft too, if that’s how you prefer to work.

          • Hannah Killian says:

            Would the baby’s kidnapping be the Hook or would it be the Inciting Event?

          • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

            Depends on what the main conflict is. Is the kidnapping the Call to Adventure for the protagonist–or just the first domino leading to that first real turning point into the main conflict?

          • Hannah Killian says:

            Umm. . .

            Back to the drawing board!

          • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

            Have fun. 😉

  54. I know where it is in my first completed short story I’ve been trying to publish. The hook is ‘These days are always so boring. I miss being on the force. The excitement was always there and never slowed down.’ And then it takes you back to the past when you learn of his most interesting case while on the force. There’s more about the story on my blog. The post called ‘The Summary of My first Completed Short Story’.
    As for my first novel that I’ve struggling to write, I haven’t really put in consideration that I need to do this. Thanks for letting me know that do and I begin working on it along with the other techniques I need to practice as well.

  55. I am so confused. I thought I could resolve my confusion by reading every post about “the hook” but even after doing so I feel unsure what it is. Then I thought I’d use the story structure database but the data there does not list hooks.

    As of now, for one I keep thinking that the hook and the concept of a story are the same thing. And for another I keep thinking the word hook means at least two completely different things.

    At first I thought the hook was one or more sentences that raise a question in the reader which causes them to want to read further.

    But then I kept reading about hooks and the article seemed to define hook to mean kind of the same like story concept — some pitch you could use when talking to your agent.

    The last book I read was Fifty Shades of Grey. I feel clear about the concept: Inexperienced, young female falls for twisted, (broken) slightly older male who sexually needs things that go against her nature. Can she or does she even want to make him have the relationship she imagined?

    Now. Assuming I got the concept right. What is the hook in this book?

    Thanks for any help resolving my confusion. I do admit that although I did finish it I did feel slightly bored at times. So perhaps there is no hook?

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      You’re completely right that the term “hook” refers to two totally different things–the hooking concept within the premise and the first moment in the story structure which hooks readers and gets the plot started. If you missed this post, it explains the differences: How to Find Exactly the Right Story Hook.

      I haven’t read 50 Shades, but what you’ve described is its premise hook. The structural hook should be found in the first chapter.

  56. Sally Chetwynd says:

    Maybe thinking about the hook vs. the premise or plot is similar to comparing a battle tactic to a military strategy. The tactic is an immediate action, part of the overall strategy (one step of many), which moves the action forward in keeping with the overall strategy that you want to achieve over the course of the military engagement (campaign, war) – er – story.

Trackbacks

  1. […] surrender themselves to the lure of your story unless you’ve presented them with an irresistible hook. – K.M. […]

  2. […] takeaway on hooking your reader (via The Secrets of Story Structure, Pt. 2: The Hook) is worth printing for your bulletin […]

  3. […] HelpingWritersBecomeAuthors – Secrets of Story Structure Part 2 […]

  4. […] hook is “nothing more or less than a question.” (K.M. Weiland) It could be putting your MC in physical danger, or it could be asking an […]

  5. […] precious), we are sitting here wondering: what the heck is a hobbit? It’s a great hook; it poses a question that we, the readers, would really like answered. Tolkien gets to that by paragraph three, but he […]

  6. […] match. The first sentence of a story always has to hook the reader (you can learn more on this blog), and in this case, it’s done perfectly. It gives us some idea of what’s going on while […]

  7. […] The Secrets of Story Structure: The Hook by K.M. Weiland […]

  8. […] that start right off with character action or dialogue), but it still catches the interest, which, as K.M. Weiland writes, is required for a hook. Why? Well, I think the answer is in two things: genre and phrasing. Genre, […]

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