How to Keep Readers Reading Your Book

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How do you keep readers reading your book? You hook them and reel them in.

What is a Hook?

A hook is something that piques a reader’s curiosity and reels them in. It is an attention-getter that causes readers to keep reading.

A hook is often nothing more or less than a question. A hook is created when a reader asks the general question of "What will happen next?" This leads readers to asking a more specific question about the characters and/or events in your book.

A hook is an opportunity for you to impress readers, wow them, and make them want, and need, to know "What will happen next?"

Hooks should never waste time or betray a reader’s trust. Hooks don’t always involve action, but should set it up. A hook will typically introduce something—character, conflict, plot, theme, or setting—and will often introduce more than one thing. Hooks should always be essential to the plot.

Formula for a Hook

  1. Arouse/Pique a Reader’s Interest
  2. Delay Gratification
  3. Reward

Methods to Hook a Reader

  1. Foreshadow
    • Imply a change is coming.
    • Hint at a fateful event, intriguing incident, or happy prediction.
  2. Pacing
    • Follow a fast scene with a slow scene.
    • Follow a slow scene with a fast scene.
    • Heighten pace through the use of sentences that progressively become shorter.
  3. Introduce a threatening or provocative character at the end of a scene or chapter.
  4. Put the protagonist in danger.
    • This doesn’t need to be serious like risking the protagonist’s life, but it should be something important to the protagonist (e.g., in danger of losing home, job, friendship, relationship, or opportunity).
    • Something must be at risk for your protagonist. This raises the stakes and readers will cheer your protagonist on, while worrying the protagonist might fail to save whatever it is the protagonist is trying to keep or achieve.
  5. Raise questions for readers.
    • Give enough information to keep readers from getting lost, but keep them guessing.
    • Leave some questions unanswered until the end.
    • Sometimes answering one question earlier in your book can open up several other questions for readers, which develops the plot but still leaves readers wondering.
    • This can often be a question the narrator asks himself at the end of a scene or chapter.
  6. Set things up so readers can identify with a character and his predicament or conflict.
  7. Keep your protagonist from reaching his goal until the resolution.
    • Minor goals might be achieved, and the main goal might evolve, but whatever the protagonist’s main goal is, it should be out of reach for the majority of your book.
    • Characters that fail, often repeatedly, when trying to reach their main goal keeps readers hooked because readers want to find out if, and how, the character will succeed.
  8. Forecast
    • Link a scene or chapter to the next by ending the first scene or chapter with one concept and beginning the next scene or chapter with a linking concept.
      • Example End: I knew Florida would be hot and muggy in August.
      • Example Beginning: My hair drooping from the humidity, I gave up on making a good impression at the meeting.
  9. End a scene before the climax (breaking at the point of tension).
    • End just before a moment of high tension.
    • In some cases, you can switch to seemingly irrelevant dialogue or a scene that isn’t as exciting. This teases the reader, and then you can return to the moment of high drama.
    • Delay the resolution of a scene (concept of delayed gratification).
    • End with a mysterious object, pregnant pause, note of uncertainty, or odd event.
    • Hint at a flashback.

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16 comments

[…] Keep readers reading your book. Hook a reader. Formula to hook a reader. Methods to hook a reader. Raise questions for readers and pique their interest.  […]

Great tips. I love the graphic with this. It is too cute. 🙂

Great post idea! As a writer, I’m constantly thinking about this. When I proofread, I’m pretty ruthless. I try to weed out anything that is boring to a reader.

Thank you for visiting, sjbraun. Weeding out anything that might be boring to a reader can be an important piece to a writer’s revision process.

LOVE all of these tips! Someday, if I ever retire, and get back into my novel writing I will reference this! Now I have the song Hook by the Blues Travelers stuck in my head. Not a bad song to be stuck there though so thanks for that 🙂

Thank you, Joely. You plan to get back into novel writing when you retire? Do you have a novel already started?

They say everyone has a novel in them somewhere! I think most people are frustrated writers at heart so this is some great advice! Now I just have to put my thoughts down onto paper!

Thank you, Emma. I think some of these tips can be modified and applied to blog posts too. Bloggers want their articles read, and they want visitors to look at more articles and come back again. With the title and first few lines of a blog post, bloggers want to grab their visitors’ attention.

This is a fantastic post! I have tried writing a book on multiple occasions. I find starting it easy, but difficult to maintain anything. Hear that it is the first sentence that draws readers in x

Thank you, Jodie. When you’ve tried writing a book, did you plot/outline the book or did you just sit and write?

Great tips! I will keep your post for my reference.

Thank you for visiting, Maria. I hope you’ll check out some of the other writing tips.

This is a really great post – writing a strong hook is incredibly important for anything you set out to write, whether it’s a blog post or a thesis. Your methods are spot on!

Thank you for your visit and kind words. You’re correct. A strong hook is important for anything you write. 🙂

Great post for those who write books. You gave great tips on how writers should attract and keep readers.

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