The journey from avid reader to avid writer starts here.
Category: Short Stories
Writing short stories is a good way to help you learn the craft of writing. As you don’t have to have as much time invested in each piece, you can quickly learn what works and what you should throw out of your toolbox.
Check out these posts for more tips and advice on writing great short stories that will leave readers begging for more.
If you are serious about writing short stories, then you need to become a master of story hooks.
There are too many short stories out there to give an accurate number for this article.
story will be just one more in the line unless you can find a way to grab your
This is where story hooks come in. It grabs your reader’s attention and keeps them reading until the end.
If you don’t
want to be relegated to the bottom of the pile, you need to learn to use a
writing hook effectively.
Reader In the First Sentence
are writing a short story, there will be limited room for you to build up
characters and settings.
You need to
grab the reader’s attention in the first sentence.
Don’t wait until
later in the short story hoping that readers will stick around while you make a
point in your face so that they want to keep reading.
This story hook can be accomplished more easily if you write that first sentence after you have completed the entire short story.
By the end of the story, you know what is going to happen, and you can write a story hook that hints at the end without actually giving everything away until you read the entire story.
Question For Your Reader
Raising a question in your reader‘s mind keeps them turning the pages of your short story.
invested in the story and want to know what happens next until the story
They want to
know more, and this keeps them reading.
In Moulmein, in lower Burma, I was hated by large numbers of people–the only time in my life that I have been important enough for this to happen to me.
—George Orwell, Shooting An Elephant
Why was he so hated?
At the outset, Verna had not intended to kill anyone.
—Margaret Atwood, Stone Mattress
Who did she
kill and why?
are highly effective in a short story where brevity is essential.
Character Story Hook
character who doesn’t necessarily make sense.
you have a young mother who makes school lunches and is an active member of the
PTA who is part of the CIA by night.
sound cliché, but there is a reason that it hooks readers.
It makes the reader curious about how these different professions can work together.
I am not
suggesting you use this example but what you should take from this is that you write
a supposedly normal person (young mother) and give them intrigue (CIA
interesting to hear how the mother made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for
What if she was handing her children their lunch bags over the kitchen island, while a foreign assassin‘s body lay at her feet that the kids can’t see?
That poses questions
that hook the reader and reels them into your story.
How did the kids not see it? How did the family not hear the commotion in the kitchen as the battle took place?
For more character building tips, check out this post.
Dilemma Story Hook
put your character in a situation that they must find an answer to or work
their way out of before the end of the story.
critical you can make the dilemma, the better your chances are that your reader
will stick around for the outcome.
These story hooks
are effective because they grab your reader on an emotional level, and they
will want to stay engaged.
reader is engaged, they want to see what happens to your character.
love or hate your character, they want to see how it ends.
Setting Story Hook
This type of
story hook is common in sci-fi and fantasy novels because they give the reader
something new and exciting.
You start in a spacesui stepping out of your spacecraft onto a distant planet as you see a welcoming party in the distance headed straight for your position.
wants to know who the welcoming party is.
They want to
know is the welcoming party friendly or hostile.
You give the
reader a small amount of information that leads to multiple questions immediately,
and the reader will become engrossed in the story quickly.
can add to the mystery because it is more intriguing to think of the possibilities
of alien life.
That is much
more interesting than saying, he stepped out of his car and saw in the distance
a welcoming committee headed toward him.
If you write stories based on real-world settings, use story hooks that add a little extraordinary to the mixture.
character is sitting at the café and has just been served her morning
coffee. Pretty ordinary right?
What if the napkin she received with the coffee had a mysterious note on it and she noticed two people from different tables watching her?
Now we have ventured
into the extraordinary. When was the
last time you got a mysterious note with your morning Starbucks coffee?
continue to read to find out what the note said or who sent it?
will stick around and find out these answers.
your story with an exposition. Nobody
wants to read a long explanation of your story setting.
introduce a lot of characters in your opening paragraphs. Since this is a short story if you have too
many characters, you don’t have time to flesh them out and give them important
parts in the story to be played out.
promises about the story you don’t fulfill by the end. If you raise questions in the opening, you need
to make sure and answer all those questions by the end of the story.
Do go out and have fun writing your next short story hook. Keep your readers entertained and they will keep coming back for more.