The Hook in Fiction Writing

I’m sure most writers, especially published ones, know what the word “hook” means in fiction writing. For those who aren’t too sure, let me just say that every book needs to start off in such a way as to excite the curiosity of would-be readers. In other words, to hook them in, as an angler hooks a fish and then reels, or attempts to reel, it in.

Picture your reader as a fish being attracted to your bait. You need to write your opening paragraphs in such a way as to entice the reader in, to make him/her want to find out more.

This should also be where you introduce your protagonist, adding enough mystery and/or conflict to encourage your reader to take the hook and let you reel him/her in by continuing the novel with quality writing.

Never promise what you can’t deliver. If you set up the hook to make the reader think s/he’s getting into a great read, don’t disappoint him/her by following your hook with bland writing. We are, after all, word crafters. So use your words to weave an interesting story, one that fulfills your initial promise.

Dear Maggie,

I just wrote a book about teaching pigs to fly. Not really fly, I mean it’s supposed to be comic fiction and people been telling me that it’s pretty good. But I been reading lately about starting your book with something exciting called a hook, line and sinker, or something like that.

 So here’s the opening of my book “Teaching Pigs to Fly”:

Harold was a pig. Harold liked to watch birds fly overhead. He thought he could probably do that too except his mom told him pigs couldn’t fly. Harold was just a young pig and thought that he could learn to fly given enough time to learn in. Maybe if he could figure out a way to get on top the barn roof and jumped off, he would just automatically fly. But he couldn’t see any way to get up on the barn roof.

So, Maggie, do I have a hook, line and sinker, or don’t I.

Yours truly,



Dear Hookless,

 One thing you do have right is your name: Hookless. That pretty much describes your opening paragraph. By the way, the proper term is just “hook,” although “sinker” works better with what you’ve written. (Actually, “stinker” is more descriptive, if you can stand the pun.)

A “hook” refers to the start of a novel, that part that would-be buyers typically flip open to in trying to decide if they want to buy that book or not. It’s called that because the opening paragraphs needs to be “catchy” (OMG, did I really say that?!) enough to “lure” in the reader and encourage him/her to keep reading.

 This concept is really the same with copywriting. You need to catch the attention of the reader and make him/her curious enough to want to read the rest. After all, you are trying to sell it which is no different than copywriting. It’s also where writers typically introduce their protagonist and even some conflict or mystery, if they have any skill at all in writing fiction.

 Frankly, I doubt that your opening paragraph will “fly.” (Picture finger down throat here.) You need to go back to the ol’ drawing board and put more “oomph” into it, such as starting with the little piggie actually jumping off the barn roof. The bigger the splat he makes on the ground, the better. Now there’s a catchy hook for you.

 Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s time to hang out the “Gone fishin’” sign.

P.S. If any of you readers of this post think the opening paragraph of “Teaching Pigs to Fly” is a bit exaggerated on the dumb side, I have read actual stories written like that! I did suspect the author of not being a native-English speaker as well as never having taken or read any of the myriads of writing tips one can find in books as well as on the Internet.


About aakemp

I am a fiction writer and freelance writer/proofreader with excellent research abilities as well. What I offer is high quality writing done in a smooth, logically consistent and error-free manner. No fluff ever with my writing! Just intelligent, interesting copy. My novels include the young adult fantasy, "The Dragons of Atlantis" and the thriller/mystery, "Beneath the Smoke," available on Amazon's Kindle program. Also "The Dragons of Atlantis" is available on as an ebook or hard copy.
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