A while back in my post “Current Projects Part 3”, there was mention on how I came up with a “hook” for my first chapter. It recently dawned on me that I never looked at that subject in depth. So after doing some further research, here is what I found regarding Opening Hooks.
Luring them in.
The purpose of a fishing lure is to draw attention, allow its targets to grab onto it, in order to finally reel them in. In storytelling, the Opening Hook is a literary technique found in the first few lines, paragraphs or even pages, which plays a similar (but much less painful) role. It’s goal is to draw the audience into the story by piquing their interest, and holding onto to their attention long enough to make them want to continue reading.
To achieve this, a writer must find the correct balance of information to give the reader in order to feed their Narrative Drive. Too much and the reader will lose interest, too little and the reader will be less motivated to continue. To properly “bait the hook”, we need to give out enough details so that the readers are curious about what is going on, but not enough for them to know what is happening. Successfully creating this eagerness within the audience will allow them to be immersed in the story by making them want to learn more or find out what happens next.
A compelling Opening Hook should focus on specific details from the story, such as characters or setting, rather than generalized ideas. Here are four basic approaches:
1. Introduction of a character:
Arguably one of the more popular methods is to begin a story with the introduction of the main character. Revealing key features of an intriguing character creates a bond with the reader, drawing them in. It is important to remember to adequately introduce the character to the audience, giving them time to adjust before throwing said characters into the action. Furthermore, introducing too many characters simultaneously will bombard the reader with too much information, making it difficult for them to tell who’s who.
2. Description of the setting:
Introducing readers to the setting by describing key features allows the audience to paint a picture in their minds. By controlling the information and details that are revealed, the writer can create a sense of mystery, therefore motivating the reader to find out more. As mentioned earlier, giving too much information will cause the reader to lose interest, therefore initial descriptions must be kept short, saving the crucial details for when they are needed.
3. A pivotal moment in time:
One of the main reasons we continue to read a story is to find out what happens next. By starting a story in a specific moment, one where there is some catalyzing action taking place, causing the reader to wonder why are these events happening. Writer’s may also begin their tale from the middle, making readers wonder what events lead to that situation (this technique is called In medias res, see my previous post called “Plot Twists” for more details).
4. Beginning with an uncommon situation:
Unusual circumstances will pique reader’s curiosity, intensifying their desire to understand or deduce the cause. An example of a compelling way to start your story would be to use a contrarian approach. By creating a situation with a strong contrast, the writer will succeed in engaging the audience right away. For example; finding a body in the middle of a desert that died from frostbite. Creating an unknown, then leaving clues to solve it, can be a satisfying reward for the reader.
There are a few approaches to avoid when working on an Opening Hook. Writers will want to steer clear from starting their story with dialogue. Until the audience can have an idea of who is talking, opening with dialogue may confuse the reader. Another thing to be careful of is adding too much information, as excessive description or irrelevant details will turn off the reader and discourage them from continuing.
This concludes my lesson on Opening Hooks. I can't wait to be able to share mine with you. Hopefully this post has proven to be some use to you.
Until next time.