Thursday, April 30, 2009

Book Hooks Day 3

A hook is a concise, one-sentence tagline for your book. It’s meant to hook your reader’s interest, and wind them in. The best way to understand how to write a hook is to read the loglines of books.

A logline is usually a sentence you see in big print on the back of a book or the one sentence you hear at the beginning of a movie trailer.

Example: On the back of my book, It Happens in Threes, you see the sentence, "Once burned, twice learned, did she dare trust again?" That is a logline. It makes you wonder how was she burned, and who or what was she afraid of trusting.

Example: On the back of "Identity: Unknown" by Suzanne Brockmann, the logline is

"What he remembered
His clothing size

What he didn't remember
Everything else"

So your first question is why didn't he remember anything beyond his clothes size.

These are both hooks that as a reader you see first and foremost and go, "Hm. That sounds interesting." Now you want to know more.

Now that we know this, let's talk about how to actually write this.

A typical and effective way to create a hook is to use the "When" formula. Stop waving your hands in the air and I'll tell you, oops! show you what the "When" formula is.

"Bridges of Madison County": When Robert Kincaid drives through the heat and dust of an Iowa summer and turns into Francesca Johnson's farm lane looking for directions, the world-class photographer and the Iowa farm wife are joined in an experience that will haunt them forever.

"The Corrections": When family patriarch, Alfred Lambert, enters his final decline, his wife and three adult children must face the failures, secrets, and long-buried hurts that haunt them as a family if they are to make the corrections that each desperately needs.

The "When" formula is “When such and such event happens, your main character—a descriptive adjective, age (maybe), professional occupation—must confront further conflict and triumph in his or her own way.

I don't recommend this for every hook, but it is a good starting point to get the basic high points written down in one concise sentence. From there, you can modify it and make it even stronger and stand out more. Remember, you're trying to take a 350 page book and tell a reader, agent, or editor what happens in 1 sentence.

Your assignment: Write two hook sentences that use the "When" formula. Tomorrow, we'll talk about other ways to write the hook.



Good luck!


Ceri Hebert April 30, 2009 at 6:39 PM  

1. When Stasia's father wins the lottery all her dreams are in reach, but will she put aside everything that's truly important in favor of being popular?
(sounds more like a young adult kind of story)

2. When Hollywood socialite Ari tells her realtor friend she wants a house in a small town, she never imagines he'd find her a haunted house in a town, population 135.

Denise April 30, 2009 at 7:41 PM  

I especially like the haunted house one. Very cool!

Ceri Hebert April 30, 2009 at 8:02 PM  

Thanks Denise. Its a finished manuscript. Just needs lots of editing.

Denise April 30, 2009 at 8:12 PM  

Well, hurry up. :-)

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