how to hook readers

Updated: Apr 1, 2021

When we're writing stories, we want our readers to be hooked! Us writers are evil beings and we want our readers to stay up all night, losing sleep, because they have to read that next chapter and find out what happens next!

But how do we hook our readers? Someone asked me this recently, so here are my top 6 tips for hooking readers (and keeping them hooked!).

1. Have an interesting concept

What is your story about? The first way that you’ll want to hook your reader is by having an interesting concept!

I like to start with a question. What if a girl signed away her soul to the Devil by not reading the T&C of a free Wi-Fi service? (Devils Inc.). What if a girl could create storms and hurricanes and fire with her stories? (A Circus of Ink). What if Cupid went to high school? (Cupid’s Match).

Your idea doesn’t have to be completely new and unique. In fact, using well-loved tropes in your story is a great way to hook readers because they’re well-loved for a reason (tell me that a book includes ‘enemies to lovers’ or a ‘forbidden romance’ and I’m there for it!). But you’ll want to put a unique spin on it to make it feel fresh for the reader.

In a lot of ways, my paranormal romance Cupid’s Match reads like a teen vampire romance story – but it’s about cupids and mythology instead of vampires, it has bows and magic arrows instead of fangs, and there’s a supernatural dating agency keeping everything in order!

2. Make your reader care about your characters

One of the best ways to keep a reader hooked is to make them care about your characters. If they care about your characters, they want to know what happens to them!

The best way to do this? Give each of your characters a motivation - something that is driving them forward through the book. When we know what is driving a character, their actions start to make sense and they become more relatable to us – even if they are unlikeable and/or the villain!

This keeps us turning the pages to find out what happens next, because if we know what they want, we want to find out if they manage to achieve it!

3. Don’t tell your readers everything straight away (i.e. don’t info dump!)

When we have a cool idea for a story, or a world, or a particular character, sometimes we’re tempted to tell the reader all about it straight away! But not only can info dumps be boring for a reader, drip feeding this information throughout the story is an effective way to keep your readers hooked. It keeps them curious about the world and the characters. Let your readers organically discover things, and let them wonder about things!

4. Ask and answer questions throughout

Your story is made of questions. There’s the BIG question – is your main character going to triumph in her quest? But there are going to be tonnes of other questions too – some big, some smaller.

Who is that character? What is that place? Why is it important? Will these two people get together? What secret is this character hiding? Etc.

Your bigger questions, and their answers, will be spaced out throughout the book – with your biggest question (whether the main character will triumph over the conflict) being answered at the end. But you should be asking and answering smaller questions all the way through your book so the reader is compelled to read on to discover more.

5. Follow your conflict