The art of great hooks 🔑

What can we learn from these two tv shows from HBO called The Newsroom and The Last Of US opening scenes about great hook.

The art of great hooks 🔑
Photo by James Wheeler / Unsplash
“Great content is the best sales tool in the world” – Marcus Sheridan

One observation I have after watching HBO Original shows is that they nail the hook. The first 3-5 mins of the first episode of these two shows I am going to talk about below are amazingly written, played, and directed that make you stick through the entire series.

In this post, I am going to write about the excellence of hook and how it can make you want to continue reading or watching any content.

So, if you are in content creation, sharing your work online, or just curious – nailing the hook can be important to understand.

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So, What is a hook?

A hook is an opening statement (which is usually the first sentence) in an essay that attempts to grab the reader's attention so that they want to read on. It can be done by using a few different types of hooks, which are a question, quote, statistic, or anecdote. (source)

Now a hook in a book can be the first page, which decides if you give enough for the reader to turn the page. If you have passed; you my friend got yourself a reader.

If you want to have such a hook, you must either tell the audience what is happening so that they get interested or show them all the cards except maybe a few that will make them wonder, or explain things in such a way that they don't think before turning the page.

Now, that hook has been used everywhere. If you really think about it, every brand has a hook, a trademark that you will immediately remember.

Nike's - Do it, KFC's - finger licking good, Blinkit's - India's last-minute app, and many others. These are also called a hook.  

So, for tv shows the hook is basically the first 3-5 scenes that come before the title comes. And HBO shows are a master in creating these 3-5 min masterpieces.

I am going to show you what I mean. Let's look at the TV show The newsroom's opening scene. One of the best shows I have seen (I was told to see this show by one of my friends from Infosys.)

You can see that right from the beginning you notice a certain tension. A battle between what is happening around him and what is going on in his mind.

He wanted to tell everyone that the things you are saying are wrong and he did. But, he didn't stop there – He went on to say how America and the people of America used to be. How we were informed by revered men. And finally acknowledges that the first problem in solving anything is to acknowledge the problem to solve it.

That is a great hook – he doesn't only talk about one thing but all the sides. In this particular opening, he started by stating statistics about how it is not the greatest country, then moved on to show how America used to be –  which gives us the exact sense and just enough curiosity about the rest of the episode.

This whole scene of about 10 mins gets you up and steady leaning forward in anticipation and makes you excited for the next part.

That is one great example of how hooks can alter the direction of your thoughts about the show.

Another example from the same HBO presenters is its recent and I must say my most awaited TV show of this year – The Last Of Us.

If you don't know, the Last Of Us is a game that amongst gamers has a wide-spread reputation that it's the game with the best story-telling. I hadn't played the game but I believe when a large group of gamers says it's the best because it will be.

When they heard that HBO is making the show on the game. The gaming community fans of The Last Of Us have accepted and were mentioned that it could not have come at a better time.

The first episode aired two weeks ago and I still can't get over this opening scene. It has got to be one of the spine-chilling intros of all time. No crazy fight scenes, No overdoing of anything, just 3 guys talking but...  

If you have watched it you will be reminded of times when we were and still recovering from the times of the global pandemic. The mere fact about the epidemiologist saying a viral spread is not a worry (like covid) and the mind-controlling fungi are the threat if the temperatures got a little warmer is spinning my head.

The thought of what happens if fungus took over and infects us had me hooked to the show.

You see these shows are 10 years apart but you can see how the opening scene gets you to stay and watch the rest of the show. That is what a good hook does.

I highly recommend watching these shows – not only because they are great television but also for their storytelling. Their hooks and the way they bring the story.

How can we apply the hooks to our content?

From both videos, let's try and analyze the common points:

  1. It starts with a dialogue where the obvious is stated.
  2. the narrator of the scene directs or holds the protagonist and says prove us wrong (the rest of the people in the scene, while consciously implying, we the audience). He doesn't do this most efficiently but in a sarcastic manner.
  3. This changes when the protagonist starts proving them wrong and starts to make sense of what he is talking about.
  4. The protagonist gives the past victories, present situations, or future what-ifs.
  5. Scene and then titles.

I think this is as simple as it gets, but in creating the hook, there must be a way to know all this. We must know the goal we are trying to create, the emotion we are trying to convey, and the direction for watchers and readers to go – meaning this is what will happen.

Now, How can we apply is

  1. If you are creating videos on  YouTube, you must think of what emotion you are trying to convey and how to bring the audience to watch the rest of the video.
  2. If you are a writer, then how can we bring more details, like the scene, the lighting, and the emotions that are going through the people around the characters? Being descriptive and finally proving them wrong and easing them into the discomfort.

In conclusion, if you want to create amazing hooks, that will bring the audience to the next section, you need to unlock the emotion.

For further readings, I would recommend the following articles to understand more about a hook:

  1. The marketing hook by Josh Barney
  2. The marketing hook examples
  3. How to write a hook masterfully from Grammarly
  4. 7 tips for writing an attention-grabbing hook from Masterclass

That's it for today. Thank you for reading.

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