How to write a great story hook

Skyfall hook

Skyfall contains an early action hook


IN A PREVIOUS post I talked about the importance of a strong first image in a story.

In this post I want to suggest four of the most useful and popular starts employed by skilled writers to hook their audiences into their stories from the get-go.

Hook types:

Action: This type of opening immediately propels us into the hurly burly of the tale. It is devoid of static moments or a slackening in intensity or pace. Movies such as Speed and Die Hard are renowned for this kind of action early on in the first act.

A great opening will hook the audience from the get-go.

Shock: This opening typically highlights the formidable powers of the antagonist and emphasises the danger this presents to the protagonist. The explicit sex scene in Basic Instinct, for example, demonstrates the antagonist’s ability to use sex to manipulate the men around her, culminating in a shocking murder.

Contrasting Characters: These openings immediately highlight the differences and incongruities between two lead characters. This helps to sustain interest throughout the entire story. In Lethal Weapon Riggs is a suicidal special forces cop whose crazy tactics conflict with the traditional approach of aging cop, Murdoch, who just wants to retire in one piece and with the minimum of fuss. Their contrasting styles, generate endless entertaining banter between them and helps to drive the entire movie.

Twist: These openings mislead the audience into believing one thing, only to discover that quite the opposite is true. In The Matrix the lead character, Neo, is introduced as a hacker and drug merchant. We soon discover, however, that he is potentially the saviour of humanity.


Action, shock, contrasting characters, and twist openings are just four types of starts used by writers to hook audiences.

One thought on “How to write a great story hook

  1. Gerhard Pistorius

    Good post. Very helpful. In a previous post “3 Rules of character” you specifically mention the importance of character growth. That’s what stories are – they are biographies /profiles of actual and fictional characters who go through the human experience . On example you use is the start of The God Father where Micheal Corleone is innocent principled and moral. By the end of the film he is a power hungry murder – make the final image and closing line apart of cinema history and a insistently recognizable image in pop culture : “Don’t ever ask about my business” .

    In short : The most effective way to tell a character driven story is to see nearly a complete opposite reflection in the charterer’s soul.


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