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How to Write Your Screenplay's Hook
by Gina VanName

The hook is just that--a hook. It must "hook" your reader into the story.

The hook needs to be established within the first five pages of your screenplay.

Hooks became necessary after the MTV age, where shorter attention spans required the writer to jolt the viewer. Movie-goers and readers now have less patience to wait for a screenplay or a movie to "get going." Horror, suspense, and crime films are notorious for using a death or a murder as a hook. Nowadays, a murder has become cliché and if one is going to be used the writer must make sure the rest of the trip is a damn exciting journey.

What makes a hook more powerful? It becomes more powerful if the writer establishes not only the hook, but raises a question from it. The question could be the same as Central Question of the movie, could be related to the Central Question of the main character, or could be totally unrelated. The more related the question--the more powerful it becomes.

Let's look at three screenplays that cover horror, suspense and crime genres.

Revised Draft, 9/10/96
Written by Mike Werb & Michael Colleary

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The hook is a father's little boy was murdered by the bad guy from a bullet that was meant for him.

What is the hook's question? It's tied to Central Question of the m/c and the story's Central Question; Will Archer get revenge and kill the bad guy who killed his son?


Silence of the Lambs
Shooting Draft, 4th Draft
October 8, 1989
Written by Ted Tally, Novel by Thomas Harris

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The hook is this FBI newbie, trying to prove herself, is catapulted into the underworld of psychopathic serial killers.

What is the hook's question? The hook's question is "Will Clarice succeed in interviewing the psychopathic Hannibal, bring home the information and avoid the danger?" It's fully integrated into the m/c and the story's Central Question.

It is an example of excellent writing.

Opposite genres usually have a less definitive hook.

Fourth Draft, Jan 22, 1995
Written by Jon Favreau

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The hook is about friends living in Hollywood and dealing with women.

What is the hook's question?It's subtle, but "Will Mike break down and call the girl that he's obsessed with?" This question triggers Mike's journey of growth throughout the story. And so it works well.


The Verdict
Final Draft, Nov 23, 1981
Written by David Mamet

Read the script pages

The hook is this desperate, but inventive attorney who goes after bereaved widows to make money on their desperation.

What is the hook's question? The hook asks the questions, "Will Galvin continue such a low-level life style, and being an attorney and How did he get himself to that point?" These questions will be answered before the end of the story because they're tied into the plot. The hooks' questions are well integrated with the m/c and story's Central Question.



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