How to Hook Readers: 3 Essential Tips for Openings

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How to Hook Readers: 3 Essential Tips for Openings


The rise of online submissions systems means it’s likely your manuscript will first be encountered by editors in digital format. Form affects experience – people’s attention spans are shorter online. Add to this the fact that many publications and agencies lack the staff to read thousands of unsolicited submissions to completion, and it becomes clear just how essential it is to hook readers on page one. But what’s needed to hook a reader? Some writers mistakenly believe their opening must contain a gimmick or scene of high drama, when what readers really crave is focus.

dividerReaders enter the world of a short story blind, without the benefit of jacket copy or a synopsis to guide them. A smart author provides readers a toehold in this fictional world by zeroing in on questions readers yearn to answer.

dividerDoes your opening hook readers with key questions?

Print out the first three pages of your current work-in-progress. Read through these to see if you can clearly identify and articulate:

1. What’s the plot question?

2. What’s the clock?

3. What occasions the story?

Unsure what these terms mean? To see plot, clock, and occasion in action, as well as to learn how to use these to hook readers with openings that captivate, read The Writing Cycle’s “What’s Needed to Hook a Reader? 3 Essential Tips for Story Openings in The Review Review’s featured Publishing Tips. You’ll be glad you did.

Carol Test
Carol Test
CAROL TEST is an award-winning short story writer and former editor-in-chief of Sonora Review. Raised in Phoenix, she earned her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Arizona and taught fiction workshops at the college level for more than a decade. She currently empowers authors to get works-in-progress publication-ready via The Writing Cycle.
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