Wattpad Logo
Start Writing on Wattpad
Join Now
Close button in shape of an X Close button in shape of an X

Mastering the 'hook' in your stories (video)

Mastering the 'hook' in your stories (video) Mastering the 'hook' in your stories (video)
In this article:

    In Story School Season 2, Episode 2, we’re joined by Harry Hanson, Wattpad Content Expert, and Nicole Nwosu, celebrated Wattpad Creator and published author of The Bad Boy and the Tomboy. They discuss how to craft an irresistible hook to captivate your audience from the very first line.

    What is a hook?

    Wattpad is looking for stories that are Immediate, Engaging, and Commercial for our Originals program. Immediate means the story gets right to the point. We want the audience invested from the very first chapter. Your first chapter should give them a taste of the reading experience they’re about to have. Whether that’s the heart-stopping first meeting of fated mates or the shocking discovery of a gruesome murder in a sleepy town, your first chapter should make a promise to the reader about the story to come. 

    From Chapter 1, your reader should think “this is why I picked up this story.” 

    In order to begin delivering on your reader’s expectations from the first chapter, it’s very important to put the hook in the first chapter.  The hook is the first major event in your story that sets the tone, establishes the characters, and gives the reader something to invest in. 

    Examples of a hook:

    • A body is found gruesomely murdered
    • The ignored fourth son suddenly becomes king after the rest of his family dies in a mysterious accident
    • The main character witnesses aliens arriving on earth
    • Getting trapped in an elevator with a cute stranger
    • Finding out your new boyfriend is the son of a mafia don 

    In all of these cases, the successful hook is emotional, specific, and establishes the stakes and tone of the story. These are high-tension, high-emotion moments that immediately grab the reader’s interest and promise them a certain kind of reading experience. Start your story on a note that’s high tension, high action, high emotion, or all of the above. 

    NOT a hook:

    • Waking up and getting ready to go to school or work
    • Background information on the history of the kingdom
    • Explanation of alien biology
    • The protagonist’s normal day in the life 

    These things don’t work as hooks because they’re not focused on the present action of the story (the “front story”). Backstory and exposition don’t go in the first chapter; sprinkle them throughout the chapters that follow. While it’s common in a lot of novels and TV shows to show the protagonist’s life before the story, but things that work in movies and TV shows aren’t always the best choice for Wattpad. In Wattpad stories, the time available to hook the reader is really limited, so we want to focus on the moment of change where the story starts and not the circumstances leading up to it.

    Hook: Inciting Incident

    How do you pick the most effective, Immediate spot to open your story? Think about the moment when everything changes for the protagonist, the first event that causes the protagonist’s life to go in a different direction. In screenwriting, this is called the Inciting Incident. This is a great place to start your story, especially in terms of Immediacy. This is the event that kicks everything else off and sets the rest of the plot in motion.

    In a rom-com, the inciting incident is almost always the moment where our protagonists meet, perhaps by colliding in a busy hallway and spilling coffee on one another. In a sci-fi story, this could be the moment of first contact with aliens. The inciting incident should match the tone and scope of your story and create the conditions for the rest of the plot to happen.

    Hook: Flash Forward 

    The Inciting Incident is not the only way to hook your reader. Sometimes the inciting incident needs a little bit of context to make sense. While the inciting incident should always happen in the first 10%-15% of your story, sometimes you need some on-ramp first. But that doesn’t mean you need to sacrifice your story’s Immediacy. You can (and should!) still include a powerful hook in your first chapter, even if the Inciting Incident comes a little bit later. 

    Flash Forward: If there’s a particularly juicy moment later in your story that you know readers are going to love, you can use your first chapter to give the reader a preview of that moment. Think of it like a movie teaser trailer, where the audience gets a hint of what’s to come. The reader doesn’t need to have all the answers right away, and creating some questions you’ll answer later can be a powerful hook. If you give your reader an explicit promise of what’s to come in the form of a flash-forward, you can get them immediately invested in your story even if you need to do some setup. This can be especially useful for slow-burn romances where the leads take a long time to get together. Tease the reader with what’s to come and then make them wait! 

    Hook: Threat Teaser

    This technique is similar to the Flash Forward, and is particularly common in genres like horror and mystery/thriller. It puts us in a high-tension moment from someone else’s perspective, like the murder from the perspective of the killer, or the monster from the perspective of its first victim. This type of opening is best suited to high-tension stories and is usually used to build up our sense of the antagonist, to make them seem scary and dangerous so that we understand why the protagonist has to defeat them. This type of opening is not generally appropriate for romance-driven stories, because it pulls the reader’s focus away from the romance and on to something else. But for stories with a lot of external conflict and a scary antagonist, this can be a great choice to create investment for the reader. 

    Long curving line Long curving line Long curving line