What’s a Hook?

Since accepting book review requests, I’ve noticed things.

First, a lot of writers misuse commas.

Second, people don’t read very closely. (No attachments means no attachments.)

Third, and the purpose of this post, is that the majority of indie writers can’t write a hook to save their lives.

When you crack open a hardcover book and read the inside flap of the jacket, or the back of a softback, that little paragraph tells you what to expect from that book. Within that paragraph is the hook.

The hook is the sometimes gimmicky one-liner that describes the twist of your story, the punch, the draw, the appeal – the reason a reader is going to pick it up. You want to hook them on your novel, like a fish.

The hook is the “but then,” part:

“The Kents lead a simple life on their Kansas farm, but when an alien baby falls through the roof of the barn, they must raise him to use his powers for good.”

See what I mean? I know, it’s not the best hook. But it works for an example.

The first part, “The Kents lead a simple life on a Kansas farm…” introduces the characters, the location, and a theme. The next part, “but when” signals that a change is about to happen. Something is going to occur that changes the first part. The third part is the change, “alien baby…raising…good.” Just based on this one line hook, you have a decent idea of what the book’s about. You’ve got the basic plot.

“This normal, but then, something happens that is interesting enough to write a book about.”

I’ve gotten countless requests that don’t have hook.

“Character A, a perfect human being in every way, beautiful, smart, and popular, inherits a lake house from her billionaire uncle.”

… okay. But then what happens? Where’s the conflict? Where’s the twist? Where’s the meat in the sandwich? Where’s the dead body? Throw some skeletons in the closet. That’s because people love characters with flaws and problems.

Everyone likes those funky skeletons in the closet – especially the ones that can tap dance.

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