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Crafting an Irresistible Book Hook



Crafting an Irresistible Book Hook

 

 The first 25% of a book, otherwise known as the Beginning Hook, is crucial. If you can’t catch the reader’s attention in this first act, the rest of the book is irrelevant- no matter how good it is. There is nothing worse than hearing ‘but it gets better!’. Why should a reader slog through the boring bits to get to the good bits? Make the whole thing a good bit!

 

Bad bits include info-dumps explaining the world in which your character(s) reside, creating chapters only to introduce characters without adding anything to the plot of the story, and deviating from what the book’s back blurb promised.

 

Have you ever been reading a book, then stopped to re-read the back blub to try and remember what the story was about? Aside from causing a reader to stop reading, which is a big no-no, it means the story you want to tell is not being accomplished. Don’t take a meandering route to get to the plot of your story. Put the reader right at the beginning of ‘why’ they decided to read the book in the first place- the promise on the back blurb.

 

Here are a few (of many) tips (well, more than tips) to help establish a great Beginning Hook

 

1. Inciting Incident: This is the event that sets the story in motion. This ‘incident’ serves as the catalyst for the protagonist(s), thrusting them into extraordinary circumstances and driving the plot forward. This must be present in the Beginning Hook, preferably as early as possible.

 

Examples

STAR WARS: When Luke discovers a hidden message (in R2-D2) recorded by Princess Leia, it sets him on a path to join the rebellion against the Empire.

 

THE MATRIX: When it is revealed to Neo that he exists in a simulated world, the revelation prompts him to join the fight against machines and uncover his true identity as ‘The One.’

 

WAR OF THE WORLDS: Martians land on earth.

 

2. Establishing a Defined Antagonist: Whether it be a person, entity, corporation, tsunami or oneself, an antagonist must be defined. What is the protagonist fighting against? What is the purpose of their journey? Without an antagonist, everything would be too easy. The antagonist is crucial for laying the groundwork for the story’s central conflict, engaging the audience, and driving the narrative forward with tension, stakes, and character development. Having it introduced early through direct interaction with the protagonist or through their (the antagonist's) actions and influence in the story world, helps sets up the central conflict and establishes the stakes for the protagonist’s journey.

 

Examples

LORD OF THE RINGS: Sauron is introduced very early, and his desire to conquer Middle-Earth and possess the Ring sets the stage for the central conflict of the story.

 

1984: Big Brother is established in the opening pages of the book, making it clear who (and why) Winston Smith rebels against them.

 

3. Introduction of the Protagonist and Their Goals: Along with a setting that is crucial in immersing the reader into a new world (especially science fiction and fantasy), readers need insight into who the protagonist is and what they want and what drives them. By showcasing (show vs tell) the protagonist’s personality and motivations, readers become invested in the character and their journey.

CAVEAT: Showcasing is best done with actions and/or dialogue that involve the actual plot of the story. Going off on tangents just to demonstrate who a character is and what their backstory is, adds nothing to the story and slows narrative drive.

 

Hopefully these tips help you when you're editing, or writing the first draft of your story. Once you've mastered your Beginning Hook, writing the Middle Build- whether you use 3 or 4 Act structure, will be much easier. Having a strong foundation helps lead the way into a more cohesive story.

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