Learn Writing Hooks From Novelists’ First-Sentence Secrets

writing hooks begin with the first sentenceYou only have a few moments to hook your reader. Great prose and copywriting contain powerful writing “hooks” that snag your readers’ attention.


Authors know the magic of a great first sentence. Readers of email and the Internet require even tighter writing hooks because the of their flighty nature and behavior. Here one moment, gone the next. No one is settling in to read 800 pages of your website, so you have to come on strong. 

Make your first sentence count with a novelist’s tips on powerful writing hooks. 

Susan May Warren, blogger at MyBookTherapy.com recommends the SHARP process for authors. It breaks down nicely for copywriters, too.

  • Stakes: When the stakes are high and immediately apparent, your readers won’t  question why they should be reading your article. If the stakes are big enough, scary enough, and personal enough; they’ll get involved and pay attention. Show there’s a lot riding on that first sentence…better keep reading, or else!
  • Hero Identification: Make them feel the connection. Use the word “you,” use language they would use, use expressions they feel, get inside their problem and speak from that slightly uncomfortable (or too-comfortable) place they inhabit. 
  • Anchoring: Grab your readers’ full attention by immediately addressing the Who, What, Why, Where and When. If they understand the framework of your solution, and if they understand logically how it fits in with their situation, they’ll trust you and appreciate the groundwork you’ve laid. They don’t need to guess what you’re up to; you’ve planted them firmly in reality. 
  • (on the) Run: Drop them right into the action. The past and the future will take care of themselves if you paint a picture taking place in the present tense. Right here and now, this is what’s happening. It’s happening as we speak; readers will want to see what happens, especially if they can relate to the action.
  • Problem: Warren calls this the “story question” because it’s the question that the reader asks all through the book. (I.e. “Will Frodo be able to destroy the ring?”)  Readers are gripped by problems that make them want to read more. Present the problem in a suspenseful way and your reader will actually care about finding out the answer.

So the next time you write that first sentence, pretend you are telling a juicy story. Get your reader hooked fast with one of these “novel” techniques.

Do you plant writing hooks of your own device? Share how YOU do it. Connect on Facebook and let me know!

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