Your readers have picked up your book, but the question is, how do you make them keep reading it? These days, competition for readers is stiff—and it comes not just from other literary sources but also from screen time: social media, TV, and films. Couple this with ever-shortening attention spans, and the likelihood increases that if you don’t immediately grab your readers’ interest, they’ll put your book down.
So how do you hook your readers?
The first chapter is your first impression with your reader. Make it a good one. Think about compelling novels that immediately draw you in and how you can emulate them, from Harry Potter to The Hunger Games to The Handmaid’s Tale. As different as those books are, all of them suck their readers in from the very first chapter and keep them interested. So what do they and other popular books have in common? How do they not only attract readers but also keep them hooked?
This applies to more than thrillers or whodunits. All good stories have elements of intrigue that make the reader want to know more. Curiosity is key. The human mind loves to unravel a good mystery, so present your readers immediately with an intriguing situation, moment, or character. Starting at the beginning isn’t always the best hook. Start at a pivotal moment that your plot hinges on, or set the stage in some unusual way. And, of course, who doesn’t love an intriguing personality? Give your reader a character worth getting to know. Presenting the interest at the beginning will leave your readers thirsting for more.
Keep it simple—at first. Your story may be complex, but don’t barrage your reader with too many things at once. Readers should be on a need-to-know basis. Don’t overload your readers up front with so much information that they’re left floundering and sifting through a morass of facts, attempting to sort everything out. And don’t overwhelm your readers with too many characters from the beginning, leaving them wondering who is who. In your first chapter, introduce a few key characters, and let your readers get to know them. Developing meaningful relationships takes one-on-one time, so start simple.
If you want to entice your readers to keep reading, then show—don’t tell. You’re not writing a report; you’re inviting them into your story. So make them feel it. Make them see it. Immerse them in this world you are creating. Let the reader in on your protagonist’s goals and intents. Your reader will dive in and want to keep reading if you do.
Hooking your reader is all about drawing interest and keeping it. Give readers a compelling tale from the get-go that will grab their attention. Above all, find a way for your reader to create a meaningful connection from the very beginning, whether it’s with the scene, with the characters, or with your world. If you do, they’ll be hooked.