The Hook (Act 1 of the 3-Act Story Structure)

The Hook

The Hook

The start of a story always starts with the hook. The hook of the story is the introduction to your main character and plot. It’s everything of the story that happens before the inciting incident. It is a picture of what their life looks like BEFORE it all changes.

The hook of a story is also literally the thing that hooks your reader into the story. Their life should be boring, bad, or compelling enough to make the reader want to see a change. Or they should like the character enough to cheer them on.

Some questions to ask yourself for writing the Hook:

  • What do they do from day to day?
  • Who are the people that are in their life?
  • What do they want/what is their dream?
  • What is the state of the world?
  • Is there a problem that needs a solution?

The Hook Examples

I’m going to use these stories (a couple of my favorites) for the rest of the series and want you to be aware that there might be spoilers!

Mulan
Copyright © The Walt Disney Company

Mulan

Mulan wants to bring honor to her family by being a perfect aspiring bride. Her parents don’t have a son and the only way she can bring honor to her family – according to societal standards – is to marry well. It turns out she is anything BUT a conventional bride.

Interstellar
Copyright © Warner Bros

Interstellar

The world is faced with its inevitable ending and everyone has lost hope of finding a solution, except for cooper. You find out he’s an ex-pilot for NASA, that he’s super smart, and an amazing single father for his kids. He wants a better future for his children.

The Hunger Games
Copyright © Lionsgate

The Hunger Games

Katniss is clearly poor and has to scramble a life together for her mother, her little sister, and herself.  Her sister is the most important person in her life, which is made super clear, and her mother not so much. You meet her best friend Gale, go with her hunting, and get a feel of what life in district 12 is like. The hunger games are introduced and it’s made clear that Panem uses them to keep its citizens in check.

Avatar
Copyright © 20th Century Studios

Avatar

You get a glance into Jake’s life. Life on earth sucks. It’s overpopulated, the crime rate is at an all-time high and he’s in a wheelchair. All in all, his life is more about surviving and he doesn’t enjoy it one bit.

Beauty and the Beast
Copyright © The Walt Disney Company

Beauty and the Beast

Belle literally wants more than her small provincial life, which is made clear right from the beginning. You meet Gaston, who is intent on marrying the most beautiful girl in the village, which is Belle for him. Only her father is still in her life because her mother died when she was very young. Her father loves her very much and goes away on a trip to earn money. You also learn that the town thinks she’s weird because she’s a woman who likes to read – hence the ‘small provincial life’.

Comparison

Every story’s hook is different. Some hooks are very short and some are very long. It truly depends on what your story needs. If the inciting incident – which is the next plot beat – needs some explaining or needs to carry some weight one way or another, you need to flesh out the story beforehand. Is there something important for the reader to know before the character goes through some life-changing event or can it be mysterious?

To write a compelling hook, the story should appeal. Have a very peaceful but boring life shaken up by some chaos. Make a character who is suppressed in some way, fight for their victory. Make the hook of the story as boring, sad, or lonely as possible, and make sure the changes your characters go through (themselves or the world because of them) are significant. It makes for the best stories!

Which story has the best Hook in your opinion?

Lots of Love,
Britt

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Britt van den Elzen

Hi! I’m Britt, a 20-something creative entrepreneur from the Netherlands. I’m passionate about all things magic and can often be found dreaming about fictional worlds. The greatest love of my life is storytelling and I’ve been reading and watching stories ever since I can remember. ✨

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