Narrative hook

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A narrative hook (or hook) is a literary technique in the opening of a story that "hooks" the reader's attention so that he or she will keep on reading. The "opening" may consist of several paragraphs for a short story, or several pages for a novel, but ideally it is the opening sentence.[1] [2]


One of the most common forms is dramatic action, which engages the reader into wondering what the consequences of the action will be.[example needed] This particular form has been recommended from the earliest days, stemming from Aristotle.[example needed]

The use of action as the hook, and the advice to so use it, is so widespread as to sometimes lead to the use of the term to mean an action opening, but other things can be used for narrative hooks, such mysterious settings, or engaging characters, or even a thematic statement, as with Jane Austen's opening line, "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife." (Pride and Prejudice)

In medias res[edit]

In medias res is where the relating of a story begins at the midpoint, rather than at the beginning.[3] This form of story telling might be used as a narrative hook. Narrative hooks often play an important role in suspense thrillers and mystery fiction.[4] An example of both these occurrences is One Thousand and One Nights, in which a tale, "The Three Apples," begins with the discovery of a young woman's dead body, thus keeping the reader interested in "whodunit."[5][6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Myers, Jack; Wukasch, Don Charles (2009). Dictionary of poetic terms (New ed.). Denton, Tex.: University of North Texas Press. p. 244. ISBN 978-1-57441-166-9. Retrieved 25 July 2011. 
  2. ^ Lyon, Elizabeth (2008). Manuscript makeover: revision techniques no fiction writer can afford to ignore. Penguin. ISBN 978-0-399-53395-2. Retrieved 25 July 2011. 
  3. ^ Clifford, Tim (1 January 2013). The Middle School Writing Toolkit: Differentiated Instruction Across the Content Areas. Maupin House Publishing, Inc. p. 63. ISBN 978-0-929895-75-8. Retrieved 29 July 2013. 
  4. ^ Treat, America (1982). Mystery Writer's Handbook. Writer's Digest Books. p. 111. ISBN 0898790808. 
  5. ^ Pinault, David (1992), Story-Telling Techniques in the Arabian Nights, Brill Publishers, pp. 86–97, ISBN 90-04-09530-6 
  6. ^ Marzolph, Ulrich (2006), The Arabian Nights Reader, Wayne State University Press, pp. 240–2, ISBN 0-8143-3259-5