What Is The Difference Between The Hook And The Promise In Writing?

hook 2Yesterday, my post on http://www.timetowritenow.com/  was titled “Look For The Promise In A Story” and I gave examples from The California Writers Club: Tri-Valley Branch Anthology called Voices of the Valley: Word for Word.

A member of my writing class asked me, “What is the difference between the hook and the promise?”

Let’s take the promise examples I used yesterday and find the hook.

Jordan Bernal’s A Faerie in the Glen, has this first sentence: “The Faerie Glen on Scotland’s Isle of Skye was reputed to hold secrets…and more.” This promise contains a hook, secrets. Everyone wants to know secrets, especially in a Faerie Glen.

Gary Lea’s promise in “Too Small” is in the third paragraph, “Why the shirt, I wondered, why just this one shirt? There were a lot of things that would have reminded me of Dad.” The promise is a story about having something of his father’s that held meaning and memory of his deceased Dad. The hook is on the first page, fourth paragraph: “I was hoping she had forgotten about the shirt. I didn’t feel like trying it on right now.” Why did he hope she had forgotten about the shirt? Why doesn’t he want to try it on?

Anne Koch’s “Christmas Lost and Found” has the promise in the title as well in the first paragraph, first line: “I lost Christmas. How in the world did that happen? I knew it wasn’t all at once. It was more like the slow fading of a black and white photograph.” The promise is a story about the holiday lacking joy. The hook, to me, is in the fourth paragraph on the first page: “Grown children married and established their own traditions. They were ambivalent about the season…Others were disinterested. The grandparents were gone, taking with them the glue that held the old traditions together. Christmas began to feel like a wet blanket of expectations laid over busy distracted lives.” The hook is how will she find Christmas again?

My essay titled “Life Support” starts with “My visit to Shelly in the hospital became a routine before I entered her ward.” The promise is a story about someone in the hospital. The hook is at the end of the first paragraph: “A few months ago, I had been here for Alicia, another student of mine. I hoped for a better outcome this time, but I had doubts”.  The hook is implied that one student passed away. Will this one survive?

An exercise to improve the first page of a WIP (Work In Progress), is to look for the promise and the hook in books you’ve read. Feel free to put examples in the comments area.



Julaina Kleist-Corwin

Editor of Written Across the Genres

Author of soon-to-be-released Hada’s Fog



Filed under Uncategorized, writing and blogging tips

2 responses to “What Is The Difference Between The Hook And The Promise In Writing?

  1. ladywinfred

    Excellent lecture, Jules. I’m saving it to my “Craft” file. Thank you!!!!


  2. Julaina – How nice to see you again. This is an excellent article and one I’ll pass along to a couple writing groups I used to belong to. I haven’t been on my blog since Dec due to Tom being in the hospital for the past 2 months. I came close to losing him but think we’re on the upward path. He sat up for the first time in 3 months 2 days ago – he’s too weak to do it on his own but felt this was real progress.
    I’m pleased to see Hada’s Fog is on the release list. Please don’t let me miss the announcement date. Sheri


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