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.
Your short story will be just one more in the line unless you can find a way to grab your reader immediately.
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.
Hook Your Reader In the First Sentence
Since you 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.
Make the 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.
Raise A Question For Your Reader
Raising a question in your reader
They become invested in the story and want to know what happens next until the story concludes.
They want to know more, and this keeps them reading.
Take this example:
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?
These hooks are highly effective in a short story where brevity is essential.
Dynamic Character Story Hook
Introduce a character who doesn’t necessarily make sense.
For example, 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.
That may 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 operative).
It isn’t interesting to hear how the mother made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch.
What if she was handing her children their lunch bags over the kitchen island, while a foreign assassin
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.
Character Dilemma Story Hook
Immediately 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.
The more 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.
When a reader is engaged, they want to see what happens to your character.
Whether they love or hate your character, they want to see how it ends.
Interesting 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.
The reader 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.
The setting 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.
Make The Ordinary Extraordinary
If you write stories based on real-world settings, use story hooks that add a little extraordinary to the mixture.
Your 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?
Would you continue to read to find out what the note said or who sent it?
Your readers will stick around and find out these answers.
Story Hook Don’ts
Don’t start your story with an exposition. Nobody wants to read a long explanation of your story setting.
Don’t 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.
Don’t make 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.