How to Write a Hook for Speculative Fiction
What’s the hardest thing for you when you write? Besides actually sitting down to write. Many writers might say “starting a chapter”. If you’re one of them, Welcome! Let’s end this trouble, shall we?
Entry hooks can be one of the hardest elements of a story to write, regardless of the genre. But if you can nail them, not only can you grab your readers’ attention at the beginning of your story, but also reuse your newfound skills to repeat each time a new chapter starts.
First, to the basics! In case you’re just starting on the journey to write your first book and you’re wondering what an entry hook is and why it’s important, look no further!
What Is an Entry Hook?
The opening line (usually the first line) that grabs the readers’ attention and makes them keep reading. This is the line where the author can truly show the readers why their book is worth reading. So, a wonderful exercise might be to ask yourself one simple question.
Ask yourself: Why is my book worth reading?
Why Are Entry Hooks Important?
A great entry hook is important to make sure your readers don’t put down your book. You need to introduce something exciting enough that shows your readers, “You should not put this book down!” If you nail your entry hook, you will keep your readers focused on and willing to immerse themselves into what you’re offering them.
Now that the basics are out of the way, shall we see what works best as an entry hook for Speculative Fiction? Today, I offer you:
4 Entry Hooks That Work in the Genre of Speculative Fiction!
1. IN MEDIAS RES
This is a classic strategy. Drop your readers in the middle of an action. Not only does this scene and its pace make a reader want to tear through the pages, but starting in the middle of an action also leaves a lot of unanswered questions. What will the readers have to do to find the answers? Keep reading on!
By using in medias res as your entry hook, you are creating an intrigue. And here’s a secret to nailing this hook: Don’t plunge your character into some catastrophic event. Instead, show your readers the emotional aftermath, especially if this is the beginning of the novel.
The reason is that your readers have yet to connect with your characters and this is a beautiful way to make them connect. Of course, the catastrophic middle of an action scene can be an entry hook in later chapters when your readers are connected to your characters.
How to make it work for speculative fiction? We already have an edge of the ‘What if’ intrigue. By using in medias res as your entry hook, you can turn up that dial however many notches up.
How many of you are into sci-Fi or horror movies? I am! Most of these movies start in the middle of an action. Ever heard of the movie ‘Train to Busan’? Yes, the Korean zombie hit! If you’ve watched it, you know it’s unlike any other zombie movie or TV show out there. But you know what hooked me right in? The first scene.
Spoiler Warning! (Maybe?) A truck carrying delivery goods is allowed to pass through a road where a biotech plant has had a leakage. No sooner, the driver, distracted by a phone call, hits a deer in the middle of the street, and from the looks of it, the deer should not be getting up. Ever. But as the driver drives away, the deer contorts itself and wakes up with foggy eyes.
This beginning left me with so many questions. Talk about intriguing the audience!
Ask Yourself: How can I introduce my ‘What if’ question in the middle of action?
2. UNIQUE SETTING
Now this entry hook is like a match made in heaven for Speculative Fiction. Why? Who else has more unique settings than writers working in our genre? Though a setting itself might not be interesting enough for a reader to keep reading, these unique settings can amp up the intrigue game. You don’t have to info dump your setting on the readers, just give enough details to draw your readers in.
Another way to look at unique settings is to make sure characters are somewhere they aren’t supposed to be. Think of a police officer in solitary confinement. That makes you wonder what is going on here.
A Game of Thrones is a very interesting example of this. In the prologue, and with the very first line, we are left intrigued:
“We should start back,” Gared urged as the woods began to grow dark around them. “The wildlings are dead.”
For anyone who has zero clue about Game of Thrones, they might be left wondering, “what are wildlings?” But the further we move into the prologue, we know this isn’t some usual story. The speculative element is high in this one!
3. SECRET OR QUESTION
Tell me if there is anything more intriguing than being left out of a secret or with an unanswered question! This is the kind of opening that leaves readers with more questions than answers. They want to know it all!
This type of entry hook immediately engages the reader because they ask the basic question: “Why?” Why is this happening? I’m asking you to tease your readers.
How to make it work for speculative fiction? When you have your “what if” element, introduce it in the opening line in such a way that it creates more questions than it answers.
The opening line of Peter Pan is a great example of this:
“All children, except one, grow up.”
The formula to nail this kind of entry hook in our genre is to create your “what if” question into some sort of puzzle. With the Peter Pan example, think: How can the essence of Neverland be introduced without really introducing it? With that opening line right there!
Ask Yourself: How can I create an intriguing puzzle/secret/question with my “what if” element?
4. THE CONTRADICTION
Anything that is contradictory is going to create so much intrigue your readers cannot put the book down. I am not talking about forcing something to look extraordinary when it is not. We need an honest contradiction here.
These can be contradictions in action, in emotions, in setting (like we’ve talked about in the unique setting entry hook). If you properly set up this entry hook, we are also looking at a great conflict introduction. Whether it is within the character or interpersonal.
How to make it work for speculative fiction? Your “what if” element can itself be a contradiction to how our regular world works! Show your readers that contradiction.
Remember: Entry hooks can be as unique as your story. If you nail them, you can keep your readers till the last page. Which entry hook will you be using?
Until next time!
Disha Walia is a lifelong storyteller and an enthusiastic writer and editor in love with the idea of exploring the creative world of words. While making her space in the world of non-fiction and fiction alike, Disha loves to spend even her free time daydreaming about what to write next. Connect with her on www.quillinary.com. You can also follow her on Instagram and Twitter.