Inventing Reality: A Guide to Writing Science Fiction

Narrative hook

One sign of a good opener is that it makes the reader want to continue with the story. Using a fishing metaphor, a good opener “hooks” the reader.

Writers who catch the reader have employed a successful narrative hook. A narrative hook involves dangling elements of the story before the reader so he can’t help but bite. This is done by making the reader want to know more - the who, what, where, when, how and why of the story.

Consider this story opener:

Jord ducked around the corner, pressed himself hard against the damp wall, wishing he could fade into it. His eyes darted toward the wall’s edge, hoping to catch the shift of a shadow, a movement of brush, any sign at all that they were close.

Notice how it dangles elements of the story. The reader wants to know why Jord is running and who is chasing him. The reader wants to know if Jord will get caught.

Successful narrative hooks usually begin the story in the middle of the action. Conflict already is underway. Beginning a story this way immediately creates dramatic tension, which for most readers is the delight of the narrative.

You Do It
Write a 50-word opening to a story in which you leave the reader asking “What will happen next?” and “Why is this happening?”