6 Tips to Use Narrative Hooks to Surprise Readers

6 Tips to Use Narrative Hooks to Surprise Readers

In actual life, some people love surprises and others hate them. But one factor is for certain—in fiction, you want them to write a ebook readers cannot put down. One approach to ship is thru a story hook. But what’s a story hook and how are you going to write a hook to captivate readers? 

How to Write a Hook by Shocking Your Reader With Surprise

The goal of a story hook is to pull your reader via to the following web page, paragraph, or sentence the place you’ll have planted one other hook to maintain him going.

In this text, we’ll reply what’s a story hook and have a look at how to write hooks that current stunning conditions or one thing sudden to rivet reader consideration.

What is a hook?

A story hook is the aspect of your story that grabs the eye of your reader and makes them need to maintain studying. It’s usually an sudden state of affairs or character, nevertheless it can be a shock twist or a cliffhanger.

Think of it like a fishing line with a tantalizing bait—when you’ve received your reader hooked, they gained’t give you the chance to assist themselves however maintain studying.

Why do you want a robust hook?

In her fabulous ebook Wired for Story, Lisa Cron tells a private story a couple of manuscript she learn that was boring and troublesome to get via however had an thrilling twist on the finish. The author was afraid he’d give away the shock and needed to disguise all traces of the ending till it was time to spring it.

The bother was, there was nothing to pull readers via to the thrilling conclusion. As writers, we all know when we’ve one thing sensational up our sleeve for our story thought.

But if we don’t let readers learn about it, they gained’t maintain turning pages to discover out what it’s.

So how can we try this and nonetheless shock them?

Instead of maintaining readers in the dead of night, suppose misdirection. Like an illusionist who attracts consideration to one hand whereas concealing or maneuvering with the opposite. And utilizing hooks is a method of drawing that focus.

Readers love surprises. Keep them engaged with intelligent misdirection main up to your spectacular twist.

Choose the kind of hook

You can craft an efficient hook that could be a shock to the character, a shock to the reader, or each.

When the reader is aware of greater than the character does, it creates dramatic irony, a scrumptious model of suspense. As readers, we glance ahead to the revelation that can shock the character.

Recently, I got here throughout an instance of a enjoyable hook that was a shock to me, as reader, however didn’t faze the character. In Lee Child’s quick story James Penney’s New Identity, the title character is on the run from authorities after setting a fireplace that raged uncontrolled.

Toward the top of the story, he’s picked up by a motorist who introduces himself as Jack Reacher! Suddenly my consideration is riveted without warning. I do know the character Jack, however didn’t anticipate to see him right here. Why is he on this story? How is he concerned in the entire mess?

Using a personality from one other ebook created a hook that saved me studying. 

Use the suitable bait

Remember, reader expectation is essential. Always write to your core viewers and bait your hook appropriately. 

For occasion, I write mysteries and thrillers so my goal readers will anticipate components of hazard, loss of life, crime, sorrow, and vengeance to come into play. This bait gained’t essentially appeal to a reader of candy romance or exhausting science fiction. The greatest approach to know what your readers anticipate is to learn numerous books within the style you intend to write in.

And don’t neglect, you have to be threading a number of hooks via the scenes and sentences of your story, in accordance to the style and expectations of your very best reader, as I mentioned in my article on writing hazard hooks.

6 Hook Writing Tips to Surprise the Reader

Now that the shock might be for both the character, the reader, or each and that you need to use the suitable bait, let’s check out six strategies for the way to write a hook that surprises your reader.

1. Question

Remember how we checked out baiting a narrative hook with questions in an earlier article? When crafting a stunning state of affairs hook, it has to be greater than an atypical query. It has to be—what the !?!?!

Essentially, you are planting questions that the reader desires to have answered a lot that they flip the web page. 

2. Contrast

Your narrative leads your reader’s expectations. Instead of displaying them what they anticipate seeing, reveal one thing solely sudden as a substitute. This is that magician’s trick of misdirection we talked about earlier.

Just keep in mind to keep true to your story battle and story objective. Don’t tack one thing on only for impact—it should develop organically from the seeds of your total story.

To write a distinction hook, write out what the reader expects after which play with the precise reverse. How are you able to incorporate that distinction? 

3. Work up to the punchline

If you learn my article on utilizing humor in your writing, you’ll know that shock acts in a lot the identical approach. Start out with a sentence that delivers the “normal,” layering intimately and main your reader down a path to the punchline the place you ship the shock.

Using a suspensive sentence structure (also called the periodic) is nice for this. This kind of sentence saves the principle clause for final, maintaining your reader guessing as to the place it is going to all finish. It’s additionally an instance of the traditional setup and payoff.

4. Don’t bury the hook

In order to be efficient, the hook ought to stand alone or be positioned both at the start of the sentence/paragraph or on the finish. Placement is necessary. Burying it within the center will blunt the hook and your reader will miss it.

5. Alter a cliché

As writers, we’re taught to keep away from clichés. But you may truly make a worn-out clause work in your favor in case you use it to arrange reader expectation after which twist it with a shock.

6. Use a shock hook on the finish of a chapter

Most readers decide up a ebook at bedtime, planning to get a chapter in earlier than turning out the sunshine. If you throw in a shock hook as your reader is reaching for the sunshine change, you might give you the chance to pull them into the following chapter, the place you’ll have a sequence of latest hooks ready.

Let’s check out some story hook examples

“There was a desert wind blowing that night. It was one of those hot dry Santa Anas that come down through the mountain passes and curl your hair and make your nerves jump and your skin itch. On nights like that every booze party ends in a fight. Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husbands’ necks. Anything can happen. You can even get a full glass of beer at a cocktail lounge.” Red Wind, Raymond Chandler

This is one in every of my all-time favourite story openers, and it’s a superb instance of main readers down a path, organising expectations, after which throwing a curve proper on the finish. Here’s one other in that very same vein:

(*6*) Changing Places, David Lodge

And have a look at these beauties:

“Every summer Lin Kong returned to Goose Village to divorce his wife, Shuyu.” Waiting, Ha Jin

“I write this sitting in the kitchen sink.” I Capture the Castle, Dodie Smith

“As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into an enormous insect.” The Metamorphosis, Franz Kafka

These three are very good examples of sharp, clear standalone hooks that pose such a robust and compelling query that it constitutes shock.

How to craft a shock story hook

Remember, you don’t have to whip these out throughout your first draft. The revision course of is the right time to search for alternatives to strengthen your writing with hooks. Let’s faux that is my first draft:

A shadow loomed out of the darkness and Rick hit the brake, discovering himself surrounded by llamas.

This is the top of chapter 58, and happens after a drive via a distressed forest space close to Seattle the place Rick earlier had a near-miss with a deer within the highway. So, whereas the herd of llamas is definitely an sudden occasion, it lacks the punch it might need with some revision. Let me strive once more.

Another deer loomed out of the darkness, or so Rick believed. To his shock, it was a llama and there have been extra of them.

Okay, so now I’m tipping my hat to shock, telling my reader that Rick anticipated to see one other deer and was startled to see the llamas. But as a substitute of telling, why don’t I strive getting inside Rick’s head so the reader can expertise his dismay because it progresses from warning to creeped-out to incredulity? Here’s the printed model:

“Another deer loomed out of the darkness and Rick nudged the brake, slowing to a crawl. It wasn’t a deer, and it wasn’t alone. A veritable herd of creatures swarmed him, forcing the car to a halt, creating a barrier between him and the house. He’d been captured by a phalanx of llamas.” Nocturne In Ashes, Joslyn Chase

A toolbox stuffed with hooks

Are you having enjoyable including some hooks to your author’s toolbox? If you need to be taught extra about how to write a hook, Mary Buckham has several books on the topic which are very instructive.

Remember to use a mixture of hooks as a fail-safe system in case a few of your hooks do not work, and at all times tailor your hooks to your core viewers. So go bait your hooks, forged out your line, and catch your very best reader!

How about you? Do you want surprises in actual life? In fiction? Do you see the worth in a shock hook? Tell us about it in the comments.


Let’s work on crafting a shock hook. Choose one of many eventualities beneath and write a “first draft” easy opening sentence. Then revise, utilizing the strategies mentioned within the article, till you may have a targeted and highly effective shock hook. Show your development and have enjoyable!

Martha will get a letter from her international pen pal that exhibits he’s not who she thought he was.

Darren takes the luggage of groceries into the kitchen to put them away and finds one thing completely sudden in one of many baggage.

After utilizing the restroom aboard a trans-Atlantic flight, Jenny takes the fallacious seat by mistake and overhears one thing she by no means thought she’d hear.

Write, revise, and craft your hooks for fifteen minutes, then publish your work within the Pro Practice Workshop right here. Be positive to present suggestions on your fellow writers! Not a member?

Come be a part of us right here and follow writing hooks and different story abilities.,


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