Short story hooks with Paul Jennings

Narrative Hooks

The Eavesdropper

Have you ever wandered in on people part-way through a conversation? We’re naturally curious about what people are talking about, and it’s often hard not to eavesdrop on the rest of the conversation!

Opening a story part way through dialogue can be an engaging way to set up some details by having the characters ask their own questions and share their own knowledge.

In this snippet, Jennings sets up the intrigue and tension for the whole story with just a few lines.

Why didn’t grandad want the cupboard opened?

What will happen if it is?

Will the protagonist keep their promise not to open it?

‘We can’t open that cupboard,’ said Dad. ‘I promised my father. Grandad locked it up many years ago and it’s never been opened.’

‘What’s in it?’ I asked.

‘No one knows,’ said Mum.

‘But it’s in my bedroom,’ I said. ‘I need to know what’s in it. It could be anything.’

‘I lived in this bedroom for nineteen years,’ said Dad. ‘And I kept my promise. That cupboard has never been opened. Now I want you to promise me that you’ll never open it.’

Grandad's GiftsSource
Chekhov’s promise

Here’s an example, using the same style as the snippet, but using this image as a starting point.

“You should sign up to a different class,” said April. “Or repeat a grade, or just drop out. Mary Rogers from the year above us says that that classroom is cursed.”

“Cursed how?” I asked.

“Everyone who knows is too scared to speak of it,” whispered Ken.

“But I can’t just change my homeroom,” I said. “I’m sure it’s nothing, they’re probably just telling fibs.”

“They’re not,” said April. “I’ve… seen things happen in there too. It’s... not right. Promise me you won’t go in there. Ever.”

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