Magazine Writing: The Hook

Tuesday’s Writing Tips:

Portable MFA in Creative Writing: Magazine Writing

Today we are discussing The Hook. This is essential in writing an article. It provides focus for the article. The following information has helped me as a writer create more focused and engaging articles. I hope it helps you as well.

Today I have information from the Portable MFA, and I have some ideas to share from Writer’s Digest.

Writer’s Digest recommends the following examples to creating a hook:

  1. Start with the opposite of where your piece will end
    1. For example, if you’re writing about humiliation, you might start by being arrogant.
  2. Make unlikely comparisons
    1. Elizabeth Rapoport wanted to write an essay about how everybody wants more sleep. So, your angle could be “Sleep has become the sex of the ’90s.”
  3. Bring in opposing viewpoints
    1. “I like, for example, to do what I call piddling—taking time to putter around and check my mail, refold T-shirts, collect pennies from my dresser and drop them in a jar marked “College Fund” and, in general, piddle around with my stuff. By itself, this isn’t all that interesting. But my husband, Bill, is the weekend warrior who doesn’t understand the need to piddle, who wants to go for a bike ride in the park, or buy dowels for the fabric we bought or take cartons of books to the used bookstore. Now there’s conflict—opposing viewpoints on worthwhile ways to spend our shared weekend afternoons. Conflict doesn’t have to be heated or serious to make a piece entertaining or authentic—it simply has to be present.”
  4. Highlight divisions or categories
    1. The world can be divided into those who will let a telephone ring off the hook when they are even mildly indisposed and those who would cheerfully trample small children and flower beds rather than let it hit the third ring.
  5. Contrast your tone and subject
    1. We expect a new mother to talk sentimentally about giving her baby the care he needs. Instead, my student Bernadette Glenn took a tone that highlighted her contrarian point of view:  I had to face the misery of filling the day with a boisterous, self-centered little bully who had no control over his own bowels, never mind his emotions. I had imagined a small period of rest every day, but he was outgrowing naps, and he drooled on the newspaper and punched me if it looked like I was not paying attention to him.
  6. Be topical
    1. The governor of South Carolina is on the Appalachian Trail, and you walked it once yourself.

The hook should also be relevant to something that’s in the news at the moment.

When pitching your idea to an editor, make sure to pitch at the right time. Editors work several months in advance. So, in January, monthly magazines are probably working on their May or June issues.

Next week we will discuss The Query Letter.

don't lose hope haiku

hope disappears…
she walks to the highest point
and jumps from the ledge


Do you have tips for writing a hook?




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