A narrative hook is something in a story that captures the attention of the audience and make them interested in finding out what will happen next. This is often found at the beginning of a story, and serves to initially “hook” the audience and get them to continue reading or viewing a story. There are a number of different ways this can be done, though starting a story in media res or “in the middle of the action” is among the most well known methods. A narrative hook can also occur during the body of a story, to ensure a reader is intrigued and engaged when events may otherwise be slowing.
The purpose of a narrative hook is for a storyteller to effectively capture the attention of his or her audience. In this sense, “narrative” simply means a story that is being told, and “hook” refers to the idea of an object that grabs something and pulls it along. A storyteller typically wants to use a narrative hook to grab his or her audience and then not let them go. Almost every story begins with some type of hook, which serves to capture the initial attention of an audience and make them invest additional time in the story.
One way in which a storyteller can create a narrative hook is through a technique for starting a story in the middle of the action, known by the Latin term in media res. This means that a storyteller does not typically begin with a character’s birth, but instead starts in the midst of action. The audience typically sees this type of beginning and they immediately start to ask themselves questions about what is happening.
The movie Star Wars, for example, begins with a space battle as one large ship pursues another, blasting at it with lasers. This immediately grabs the attention of the audience and makes them want to know what events led to this moment. Due to the questions that arise in an audience seeing this type of narrative hook, however, it is important for a storyteller to explain a great deal of information afterward to avoid confusion.
A narrative hook may also be used within the body of a story, to maintain the inertia of a story or otherwise push events forward. Some events and details may need to be told by a storyteller, but can ultimately slow down the flow of a tale and potentially result in the audience growing bored. Use of a narrative hook within these details and events ensures that the audience’s attention is maintained throughout the tale. This is especially important for longer works in which the conclusion might not be reached for some time.