Tips for Fiction Writers: How to Hook a Reader

Tips for Fiction Writers: How to Hook a Reader


What’s the hardest part of mastering effective writing? Learning how to hook your reader.

If you want readers to pay attention to what you have to say, you have to snag them at the getgo. You want to catch their attention and compel them to keep reading.

When you’re trying to get a book published, knowing how to hook your readers and keep them reading is especially important. When you send out your manuscript and query letter, you’ll be competing with hundreds of other writers for agents’ attention. And once you’ve landed that agent, the battle isn’t over—then you have to worry about getting editors to take notice.

Here are three simple strategies that you can use for getting readers to pay attention—and stay interested.

1. Know the difference between a hook and a gimmick

Writing instructor Traci Borum emphasizes the importance of the hook. She describes a hook as a “unique story idea in order to get the reader interested, and to stand out from the thousands of other trying-to-get-published writers.” But she cautions writers not to try to be too distinctive—then you risk crossing the line into gimmick territory. You don’t want to open with a cliché, or with something that sounds silly and overdone. You want to hook your readers in a way that seems organic and fits the story that you’re trying to tell.

2. Open with something intriguing

Instead of delving straight into the plot of your story, open with something that will fascinate your readers and make them curious. Suzannah Windsor Freeman has some great suggestions for how to accomplish this. Her suggestions include starting by introducing an odd character, or opening with an unusual statement or interesting image that will make your readers wonder and want to read on.

3. Keep your reader interested

So your reader is interested—now what? How do you keep them interested?

Surprise them.

Hal Blythe and Charles Sweet suggest that you should try to anticipate what readers expect, and then give them something else. Use unexpected but realistic plot twists. Introduce characters that will leave readers asking for more. Give them details that will intrigue them and keep them glued to the page.

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