Thursday, February 3, 2011

Writing the "When" hook

This is a handout from the "Love Is Murder" workshop on queries and fiction proposals. As I explain in the session, writers need a 'hook' that describes the basic story in a way that intrigues - even teases - a potential agent or editor. There are three basic kinds of 'hooks'. The "When" hook is the most common with mysteries; the "What if" hook is most often appropriate with thrillers where a premise is paramount; the 'quote' hook is uses a direct quote from a protagonist that poses a question or problem the reader can identify with. The focus in the LIM session was on the 'when' hook.

The “When” hook: This popular formula grabs attention and interest by summarizing the story the way jacket copy does – to intrigue. Don’t reveal everything. Try keeping it to 5 sentences or so to describe “When this event happens, this character with these qualities must do this to gain this or avoid that.”

When classics professor Reed Stubblefield is disabled in a school shooting, he retreats to a rural Illinois cabin to write a book on Aristotle in peace. Oddly, in the chill of March, the campgrounds and motels of River Falls are filled with the ill and infirm -- all seeking the healing touch of the town’s new parish priest, reputed to be a stigmatic. Skeptical about religion since his wife’s death from leukemia, Reed is nevertheless drawn into a friendship with the cleric, Rev. Ray Boudreau, an amiable Aquinas scholar with a fine library -- who collapses and bleeds to death on Good Friday in front of horrified parishioners. A miracle? Or bloody murder? Once Reed becomes the prime 'person of interest' in the mysterious death, he applies Aristotle’s logic to find the truth before he is arrested or killed -- because not everyone in town wants this mystery solved.

(for VIPER)[This began as 'When Selena De La Cruz's name is found in her parish church's Book of the Dead.." but I re-arranged it later]
Haunted by the loss of her brother to drugs and a botched raid that ended her career with the DEA, insurance agent Selena De La Cruz hoped to start afresh in rural Illinois. But her gung-ho former boss needs her back to hunt “The Snake,” a dealer she helped arrest who is out of prison and killing anyone who ever crossed him. His ‘hit list’, appended to a Catholic Church’s All Souls Day ‘Book of the Deceased,’ shows Selena’s name last. Working against time, prejudice and the suspicions of her own Latino community, Selena races to find The Snake before he reaches her name while a girl visionary claims a “Blue Lady” announces each killing in turn. Is it Our Lady of Guadalupe or, as others believe, the Aztec goddess of Death?

TRY IT! Write a 5-sentence hook to describe “When this event happens, this character with these qualities must do this to gain this or avoid that.”

No comments: