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The Hook


What is your story’s hook?

There’s a lot of “rules” out there about writing, and while I abide by some of them, others I ignore. Writing is a very personal journey, and great storytelling can use different shapes and delivery methods.

One pillar of strong storytelling that I do agree with is use of THE HOOK. Here’s my two cents on hooks and how to use them in your novel. Take anything you like out of this post and toss the rest to the side.

The Hook in its traditional form is something that occurs early on in the novel (often in the first 1%) and grabs the reader’s attention and invests them in the story.

Now, I’m greedy. I like to use hooks throughout my story. Small ones, big ones… I don’t care the size, I just like digging my little metal talons into a reader’s brain and pulling them deeper into the story.

In my own personal writing world, I use two types of hooks:

  • emotional hooks
  • reading hooks

Emotional hooks are the big hooks – they are crucial to giving your reader the need to keep going.

Reading hooks are little hooks that are like a trail of candy – the reader just can’t help themselves by eating one more, then one more, until suddenly they are 60% into the novel and on a sugar high.

In this blog post, I’d like to talk about the emotional hook – because without at least one emotional hook (great stories can have several!) your story will fall flat.

An emotional hook is a moment your reader realizes that:

a) they care about your character(s) 169AND your plot


b) they are interested in reading more and are invested in the story

Does your work in progress have a hook? Asking yourself that question can often help to boil down your story to its core fundamentals. Once you identify your hook(s), then you can make sure you give that hook proper focus and weight.

You can give your emotional hooks more weight by:

  • Taking your time. Opening a book with a scene of a house burning to the ground is exciting, but it doesn’t really matter to the reader if they don’t “know” the people inside and care about them.
  • Giving them the joy of anticipation. Before you deliver the hook, give it some buildup, possibly foreshadowing, so that they can savor it when it arrives.
  • Making it matter. Be sure to lay the groundwork or backstory of what is at stake and why this hook matters to the characters and the storyline.


Take a look at your storyline and the moments in it where you can strengthen the emotional hook. Some examples of those moments are:

  • when you reveal the reason why two people are enemies
  • when the grouchy hero gives a peek into his softer side
  • when you realize that the villain may not be all bad
  • when something turns up the heat on the characters


If you are struggling to find places that could be considered emotional hooks, then you may need to look at how to raise the stakes in your story or add more conflict.

If you need more help with your writing, check out the 2023 Inkers Con access, where you can find 7 full-length presentations on different aspect of craft. Also, we have six brand new, in-depth craft classes as part of our 2024 lineup.  Join us in Dallas or online!