Monday, May 16, 2011

By Hook and by Crook

What are hooks? In writing terminology a hook or lead is a strong opening sentence or paragraph that sets the tone, delivers the subject, and piques the reader’s interest.

Eva Shaw, writing instructor recommends, “Start with a strong hook.  Get the reader involved at once. . . Begin with a quote, a definition, a question, a statistic, a contrast, or an anecdote.”

Without giving away the whole story, hooks can place the reader in the middle of the action and pique their curiosity about what follows that intriguing first sentence.

In my own writing, I frequently lead with snatches of dialogue from a conversation that alerts the reader to my topic. A snippet from a personal note my husband received hooked many of my readers in a devotional published in The Secret Place. Other times, I lead with a figurative declaration such as, “Sharpening my iron tops my to-do list.”

Hooks that fly for your favorite author may fall flat for you. The type of hooks that crook a reader of a humor article will probably not be the right bait for an opinion piece on a highly controversial subject. Language arts teacher, Kimberly Steele recommends experimenting with various hooks to find what works for you and for your piece. (For a great article on types of hooks check out Kim’s website at

In Matthew 5 Jesus likened his followers to salt. Salty foods tickle our taste buds and keep us coming back for more. As writers of material that can impact eternal life, we want our hooks to be like salt—tempting our readers to stay for the main course of our story, article or chapter.

Here are some suggestions for hooks that will immediately whet our reader’s appetites for more:
  • ·         Begin with an action that will draw the reader in. “Seeing Ernie swagger in the church doors, Josh immediately opened his cell phone to dial 911.”
  • ·         Ask, “What if . . . ?“ “What if you could erase your past mistakes?”
  • ·         Ask “Have you ever . . . ?” “Have you ever wished you knew more Scripture?”
  • ·         Kick off with tension-building description. “Sunlight filtered through the one stained-glass window highlighted the remains of the charred sanctuary.”
  • ·         Quote a well-known saying or Scripture. “Bad companions ruin good character.”
  • ·         Quote a famous person. “It is in pardoning that we are pardoned.” Saint Francis of Assisi
  • ·         Invite the reader to “Imagine . . .” “Imagine learning that a brother you assumed had died now governs in a foreign country.”
  • ·         Reveal a startling statistic. “Eighty percent of Americans have no viable church affiliation.”
  • ·         Throw out a challenge. “Want to overcome worry?”

Check out these examples of hooks below, presented for your enjoyment, in Doggerel Couplets (pairs of light, humorous and comic lines that rhyme and have the same meter)!

With one swipe of her paw,
Sassy captured their awe.

What if we could reach up high,
Grab a handful of the sky?

Have you ever wished to see
Angels sitting by a tree?

Mounds of earth are pushed aside.
Where the laughing creatures hide.

“Jesus wept,” we memorize,
Often just to win a prize.

“He stinketh, Lord,” poor Martha said,
She thought her brother still was dead!

Imagine you’re a royal king,
With lots of money, jewels and things.

Ten percent is all God asks!
Waiters? Twenty for their tasks!

Want your followers to stay?
Try the Z to A in May!
©2011 Pamela D. Williams

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