Hello all. Things are rapidly changing on my end of the spectrum, but I can't go into details at this time. Suffice to say, it's kept me busy.

Now that I'm back in the swing of things I'm going back to a craft lesson.

Everybody has heard about making your hook irresistible. And often that’s impossible – or so it seems as we stare at our synopsis blankly.

What is a hook then? What makes it irresistible?

A hook is threefold, or, more appropriately, there are three types of hooks:

The premise Hook
The opening hook
The chapter hook

The Premise Hook:

This is the concept that makes your book stand out above others in its genre and perhaps even on a same ‘tried and true’ theme. It’s what you stress when you pitch to editors. It’s what you highlight in your queries. It is, in short, a plot element. To exemplify – in paranormal we have immortal heroes/heroines who must fall in love for some reason. A couple premise hooks that have sold books:

a. Shayla Black’s immortals are different because she’s using a spin off of the Arthurian legends and Morganna’s curse.

b. Karin Tabke’s historical medieval series centers on the fulfillment of an old crone’s prophecy. (Not paranormal)

So when considering your premise hook, you need to be able to objectively look at your work, understand it is, in some ways, going to sound a lot like other stories within its genre. But there’s a factor that sets yours apart. Makes it different from every other area it’s similar in.

The Opening Hook:

This is the line or paragraph that draws your reader in on line one when reading your manuscript. It is an impacting statement that compels the reader to read on. Frankly, this is where I have trouble. But, let’s look at a few examples:

1. The pungent odor of urine, the copper tang of blood, and the stench of terror blended in perfect union with the wailing moans and strangled screams of the multitudes of prisoners begging for merciful death. – Karin Tabke, Master of Surrender

2. Sabelle Rion heard death whisper, felt its breath on the back of her neck. – Shayla Black, Possess Me At Midnight

3. If she didn’t wake soon, he’d have to cut her. He wasn’t ready to do that. Not Yet. – Alicia Dean, Heart of the Witch

4. The Rough-Handed man carried him through the rooms empty of heat and kindness. The hands were shaking, but not from the heat and cold – Berkeley Breathed, Flawed Dogs.

Who, at the very least, doesn’t ask “Who is this speaking?” on these hooks? Karin uses a longer, paragraph form introduction. Power words. Emphasis on the senses. Shayla uses a paranormal element and personification of an experience (death). Alicia uses an immediate jump into someone’s POV and doesn’t tell us who. Berkeley sets up drama again through the senses.

So how do you do it? The answer isn’t easy. It takes a lot of effort to come up with a lead-in that’s interesting. If I can’t immediately come up with something when I start a novel, I will write what comes naturally. Let it go through the book, and I will address it at the end. Go back and revise. Sometimes when you are in the mood and mindset for edits and revisions you can see things more clearly.

Tips and tricks – think about what your characters’ stakes are. Who’s POV are you opening in? What is something compelling in his/her story/conflict or goal that you can link to the events in your opening pages/paragraphs.

In one of my books, I open with the heroine's POV. But she’s not particularly interesting. She is atheist, innocent, and she’s just proven that an ancient holy relic is real. But so what? She doesn’t care. Doesn’t believe it…. Ahhhhhh… and that became the interesting factor. My hook is paragraph form, not a one-line. And it is designed to focus on the mystery of the relic. Designed to play upon the emotion that comes with believing in Christ and spur the curiosity of what kind of relic and why is it significant.

As you can see, I struggle with hooks. Mine aren’t near as powerful as some you’ll find.

But the bottom line is, without a hook to open your book, there’s no incentive for the reader to keep reading.

The Chapter Hook:

When I first started writing, I did it with the mindset of a reader – man I was sick of sitting up all night and turning pages. Let me have a break. So every chapter ended neatly with a place to turn down the page.


The goal of the writer is to keep your reader turning pages. Make them stay up to the wee hours of morning to find out where that HEA is coming from. Do not give your readers the opportunity to dog-ear a page and turn off the bedside lamp. If you absolutely MUST drop the pacing and tension, do it in the middle of a chapter. Never, never, at the end.

So how do you accomplish this? The absolute factor is to remember GMC – goal, motivation and CONFLICT. Conflict drives your chapter ending hooks. Every chapter and every scene has to cover GMC. If you were to graph it, every scene would look like a hill. You plant the goal (or it’s already planted based on whats happened before), the action relates to the motivation, and the conflict tosses everything back up into the mix again.

Let’s look at a couple last lines in the authors I’ve mentioned above:

“Nick hadn’t clicked out of the file when he left.” – end of chapter 29, Alicia Dean, Heart of the Witch. Can you guess what’s going to happen now? Can you assume it’s not going to go over well when Nick finds out the heroine went snooping?

“Aye, taming the lady Isabelle would be a welcome repast from the long winter nights ahead” – end of chapter 4, Karin Tabke, Master of Surrender. The very premise here is that the Norman knight has conquered a Saxon woman, he wants her in his bed, she wants to kill him. Back to conflict, 100%

“Please… don’t say no.” End of chapter 13, Shayla Black, Possess Me At Midnight. Do you want to know the answer? And yes, this is a highly charged sexual scene.

Sometimes, the end of chapter hook can include foreshadowing. It doesn’t have to be nearly as powerful as your opening hook, but the driving goal here is to get the reader to turn the page.

Since this precisely, is what drove me to compose this, I want to look at the one I’m particularly pleased with. It makes me giggle. (All torturing of characters should make an author cackle with glee).

The hero has been wanting to get the heroine in bed. He’s resisted because he’s afraid she’ll crash through his emotional walls. His best friend has advised him to allow her. That the heroine isn’t devilish enough to burn him. Meanwhile, the reader knows the heroine has hidden something very important to the hero and intends to use it to her advantage. So the hero gets his sex. It’s mind numbing. He’s totally sated inside and out. And then… (insert maniacal cackle here), the chapter closes on his last thoughts –

He closed his eyes on a contented sigh. He did not regret doing so. No woman who bared her soul so freely could be capable of betrayal.

The reader knows this item is going to come up. The reader knows the hero's going to consider it betrayal. And betrayal to him is… beyond unacceptable. The reader also knows the heroine's reasons for doing it are very justifiable. And I have just set up for the proverbial stuff to hit the fan in the hero's struggle.


I love torturing characters.


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2 Responses so far.

  1. I love how you break "hooks" down into three catagories. Very helpful. Thanks for the lesson!

  2. Great post. Thanks for sharing!

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(History Channel International)



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