What are the definition and purpose of a hook or a dramatic hook?

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sciftw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

A hook (dramatic hook or narrative hook) is a literary device used at the beginning of a story to engage a reader's curiosity.  

The definition does a nice job of summarizing the purpose of the hook as well.  A hook grabs your reader's attention right from the start.  A writer wants to do this, because an interested and engaged reader is a reader that keeps on reading.  If a reader is bored from the first sentence or first paragraph, they are not likely to keep reading.  Or at the very least, they are not motivated to keep reading.  

When teaching my students how to use hooks, I give them a list of five standard hook types.  

  1. Ask a question.  This works well because it forces your reader to think of answers.  It engages their brain toward your topic right away.  
  2. Make a bold statement.  This is usually an opinion of some kind.  Bold opinions tend to get your reader emotionally involved right away.  They might agree or disagree with you, but they are emotionally invested either way. 
  3. State a definition.  It's cold, factual, and to the point.  That's why it tends to work, but it is my least favorite.  
  4. Use an anecdote.  People love stories.  Tell a short story of some kind that is eventually going to help highlight what your main point is.  
  5. Use a quote.  It could be a quote from the piece that you are writing on or a quote from a famous person.  It doesn't matter as long as it applies to the point that you are going to write about.  A quote draws your reader in, because people assume that a quote is important for some reason.  Your reader will want to know why that quote is important.