What’s a Hook and How to Find It

HooksI write so much better and faster when I can identify the hook of the article or story early. When I mentioned this on a webinar recently, someone asked, “But what is a hook and how do you know it when you see it?

Good question!

Think of the hook as, well, the thing you hook your thinking on as you write the article. Or the thing that will hook your reader into going past the first sentence or two. It’s like the organizing principle that you write around. Or the most important point. Or the one-liner that you think everyone will want to tweet. It’s what snags both you and the readers into the piece.

You may know that you have to write about a certain topic, but until you find your hook, you’ll just be rambling.

Here are some common hooks . . .

A good question. Questions that many people have are great hooks. It’s the hook I used to draft this blog post!

A dramatic situation. If you are telling a story that grabs your reader, they’ll want to hang on to see how it is resolved.

An interesting character. If a person in the story is interesting, because the reader can relate to him or her or because the person is very different from the reader, that can work as a hook.

A quote that says it all. Sometimes a direct quote from someone you interviewed really gets to the crux or heart of the matter and you can use that as your hook.

The format itself. People love Top Ten Lists, how-to articles, and Q & A interviews. These formats themselves are good hooks because of their popularity.

A surprising stat. A startling statistic can work as a hook too.

A funny situation. Humor is a great hook, especially if people can relate to it in their own lives.

What hooks do you use in your nonprofit writing?

 



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  • We use our master narrative to tell our story at SaveTheRedwoods.org, starting with why a particular redwood forest is special and worth protecting. We follow with the barrier to saving the forest (threat of logging or development), then explain how the reader can help by donating.

  • In terms of an organizing principle, I use the ‘main message’ or key message. Different from the subject/topic, the main message is articulated in a complete sentence and once that’s nailed down, the writing flows easily. For example, a speech might be on the topic of “economic impact of mental illness” but the main message is “Today, I’m going to explain how untreated/undiagnosed mental illness has the potential to cost our economy billions.”

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