Monday, October 02, 2017

Day Two: Idea to Novel Workshop: Develop Your Hook

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

Welcome to Day Two of Fiction University’s At-Home Workshop: Idea to Novel in 31 Days. The first twelve days will focus on developing the story and getting all the pieces in place so we can more easily plot the entire novel.

Today, we’re working on developing that all-important hook.

Step One: Determine Your Novel’s Hook

Hook is a term used in a variety of ways. It might be the hook of a query letter, a hook to make a reader keep reading, or a hook line in the text that stands out and makes a reader smile and think, “Great line.” No matter how it’s used though, a hook is anything that makes the reader want to read more. It “hooks” the reader, captures attention, and piques interest in the novel.

In the brainstorming stage, the hook is the gotcha—it’s the twist that will make the novel compelling and fresh. It’s the “ooooh” factor that probably got you excited about the idea in the first place. It might be a plot point, a character goal, or a conflict. It could even be the theme.

Why the hook is important: The hook is what sets the novel apart from other books, and makes the novel different. The stronger the hook, the better the chance of selling the novel. (No pressure, right?)

In harsh terms, the hook is why a reader (or agent) should care about your book and not pick up someone else’s. It’s also how readers choose the novels they read, because one book will stand out and be more appealing than another—one “hooks” more than the other. If you’re just writing for fun, a hook isn’t vital, but if your hope is to one day publish a novel, a good hook is a necessity.

Types of hooks can include:

The Protagonist Hook

There’s something different about the protagonist. She has a power, she’s someone unexpected, she has a compelling occupation. Often the protagonist has decided to do something unexpected with that ability or skill. The protagonist is what hooks readers to want to read more about this person.

The Core Conflict Hook

The core conflict of the novel revolves around a special or unexpected event or situation. The problem itself draws readers in, and they want to see how this issue is resolved and what happens.

The Theme Hook

The theme explores an idea in a compelling way. Often these novels are more literary in nature, but a solid theme hook can also drive a more commercial novel. The hook poses a philosophical question the reader finds intriguing and then explores it.

The Setting Hook

A setting hook offers readers a world (in the most general terms) that intrigues them and makes them want to explore it. It’s unusual and a place readers might want to visit regardless of what kind of novel is set there. It usually triggers a sense of adventure or what kinds of adventures might occur there.

The Concept Hook

The basic idea is unusual and poses a question that begs an answer. The concept is so intriguing readers want to see how the novel unfolds. These are often posed as “what if” questions.

Explore what’s compelling and different about your novel.

1. List three critical things about your protagonist.

2. List three critical elements of your conflict.

3. List three critical things about your theme.

4. List three critical things about your setting.

5. List three critical things about your novel concept.

Does anything on your lists jump out as a strong hook? What feels compelling or offers a new twist to an old idea? What best shows the strength of your novel?

EXERCISE: Write down your novel’s hook.

While you want to find the “ooooh” factor, this hook doesn’t need to be agent-ready quality. Focus on what makes your idea fresh and compelling. You’ll also have time to develop this further as you learn more about your novel and characters.

Those following along with the PYN book: Workshop Three goes into more extensive detail on developing your hook, with exercises and examples to guide you.

Tomorrow, we’ll look at what will drive our plot.

Follow along at home with the book, Plotting Your Novel: Ideas and Structure. Get more brainstorming questions and things to think about, in-depth articles, and clear examples of every step from idea to novel.

Paperback: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indie Bound  | Google Books | Books-A-Million | Chapters/!ndio

Ebook: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | Overdrive | Kobo | Inktera | Chapters/!ndio

Go step-by-step through plotting and writing a novel. Learn how to find and develop ideas, brainstorm stories from that first spark of inspiration, develop the right characters, setting, plots and subplots, as well as teach you how to identify where your novel fits in the market, and if your idea has what it takes to be a series.

With clear and easy-to-understand examples, Plotting Your Novel: Ideas and Structure offers ten self-guided workshops with more than 100 different exercises to help you craft a solid novel. Learn how to:
  • Create compelling characters readers will love
  • Choose the right point of view for your story
  • Determine the conflicts that will drive your plot (and hook readers!)
  • Find the best writing process for your writing style
  • Create a solid plot from the spark of your idea
Plotting Your Novel: Ideas and Structure also helps you develop the critical elements for submitting and selling your novel once it’s finished. You’ll find exercises on how to:
  • Craft your one-sentence pitch
  • Create your summary hook blurb
  • Develop a solid working synopsis And so much more!
Plotting Your Novel: Ideas and Structure is an easy-to-follow guide to writing your novel or fixing a novel that isn’t quite working. 

Available in paperback and ebook formats.

Janice Hardy is the award-winning author of the teen fantasy trilogy The Healing Wars, including The Shifter, Blue Fire, and Darkfall from Balzer+Bray/Harper Collins. The Shifter, was chosen for the 2014 list of "Ten Books All Young Georgians Should Read" from the Georgia Center for the Book.

She also writes the Grace Harper urban fantasy series for adults under the name, J.T. Hardy.

When she's not writing novels, she's teaching other writers how to improve their craft. She's the founder of Fiction University and has written multiple books on writing.
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | Indie Bound


  1. This hook lesson makes me think. I hadn't considered so many books. Great insight, as always.

    1. Thanks! You don't need them all every book of course, but the stronger we make all of them, the better the book tends to be.

  2. Really enjoying this series. I'm using it to keep me on track with my current WIP, since I've decided NaNoWriMo isn't for me.

    1. Thanks! It's not for everyone :) I've done it several times and enjoyed it, but I always seem to get swamped around this time of year.

  3. Oh, good, you defined types of hooks stories can have. Thanks. I don't remember reading anything but: 'Do a great hook' before. And it seems like I've read thousands of writers books.
    NaNoWriMo didn't work for me either (replying to Dominique). I don't do deadlines well, it made me Not want to write for a couple weeks after, that was way counterproductive to me! But I enjoy their information.

    1. Most welcome :) It works for NaNo and non-NaNo folks alike.