Hook, Crook, or Aduncity

The hook is the first part of the query letter. It's what you say when your friends ask, "So what's your book about?" It is the fundamental concept behind the plot of your story, written in such a way as to make the reader say, "Cool, tell me more."

But how the heck do you distill 100,000 words into 2 sentences of cool? It's not easy. The internet has some good tips already, but I'm going to throw my own version into the mix because with something as subjective as a novel hook, I don't think you can have too many ways to think about it.

There are 7 things the hook should have:
  1. Protagonist. Who is the story about?
  2. Antagonist. Who or what is against the protagonist?
  3. Goal. What does the protagonist want to accomplish?
  4. Stakes. What will happen if the protagonist does not accomplish their goal?
  5. Conflict. What is keeping the protagonist from accomplish their goal?
  6. Setting. Where/when does the story take place?
  7. Theme. What is the story's main subject or idea?
Figure out that information, then write it in a sentence or two. That's your core. The entire rest of the query, synopsis, and even the novel is focused around that. That means that your query (hook + mini-synopsis) has all of that information and, more importantly, does not have anything that confuses or detracts from that information.

The more I learn, the more I think that the best way to do this is to write the hook before I outline or draft the novel. It would help keep the novel more focused and make writing the query/pitch/synopsis much easier later on. Unfortunately, Travelers was an attempt to prove something to myself, so it got away from me long before I knew what a query was, and now I find myself having to wrangle it back in. I have more hope for Air Pirates, but that was also outlined before I figured this stuff out.

I'll start talking examples in the next post or two. And if I finish my other plans for the month, I might try writing a hook for Air Pirates using this method, and I'll show you that too. Finding a hook is like a Sudoku puzzle: it totally sucks until you figure it out, and then it's the most awesome thing in the world and you want to do it again.

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