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What's the hook for your novel?

I've recently been exploring the hook for my novel, and I was curious what kinds of hooks everyone else has come up with for their novels? 

Here's mine:

Grief feels like a monster gnawing on your insides. But for 16-year-old Wylie, she comes to learn that's exactly what grief is, a monster.

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Replies (19)
  • Hi Kayla, have you read A Monster Calls? Your hook made me immediately think of that book...not sure if that's good or bad! :)

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    • I have, only this monster isn’t the good kind. And this is more fantasy based. Perhaps I should delve into that more somehow. 

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      • I sometimes think the person who wrote the book isnt the best person to write the hook, as they as too close to it

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      • Yep, I can see where you're coming from Alan. I adore a monster calls - especially the illustrated version. Heartbreaking. 

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        • My hook is the demise of two lovers, in a setting presided over by a big softy.

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          • My novel has several hooks:

            > The genre, Contemporary Women's Fiction, is the genre most read

            > The theme, personal freedom vs commitment, is relatable, positive, uplifting

            > The title is short, curious and memorable

            > The opening line & first chapter are attention grabbing (tried & tested on readers)

            > The voice, as in author's voice, is fluid and unhurried, a relaxing read

            > Well written, I'm working hard on this one...

            Anyone interested in beta-reading, just 'friend' me. Will reciprocate.

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            • Love the "working hard" bit. Always the most challenging.

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            • Is the monster inside or outside?

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              • Like D. M. Costa, I think (hope!) my fantasy novel has more than one 'hook'. The main ones, I think, are...

                1. The central protagonist. I hope the potential audience will be first intrigued by and then captivated by the seeming 'impossibility' of a limbless thief (as introduced in the first two paragraphs of the first chapter).

                One of Membra’s surgeons, thinking to be kind, had told her once that those who had lost limbs sometimes regained them in their dreams. For Membra that had never been the case. And so, in dreams and waking, she had taught herself how best to do without them.

                There were times, of course, she missed their usefulness. As, for example, now, suspended from a rope a hundred feet above street level, clear night sky above her, only empty air between her and the all too distant ground.

                2. The paradox in the main theme, embodied in the protagonist's central personal dilemma/decision as well as the outward storyline. This essentially, and perhaps counter-intuitively, presents 'perfection' as a bad outcome and 'imperfection' as good, even desirable. One of the work-in-progress taglines for the book is essentially the question that Membra has to ask herself at the climax of the plot:

                What would you sacrifice to save the world from paradise?

                I hope that readers might want to find out whether the world should, indeed, be 'saved' from paradise... and, if so, why!

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                • Rookie writer question alert! So how do you define "hook"? Some of those sound a bit like elevator pitches, some more where it sits in the market. I'm learning new things all the time in Townhouse.

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                  • Haha! I suspect there are as many answers to that question as there are writers in the world, Kate! 😂 

                    For what it's worth, I've always liked Joseph Finder's take on what the 'hook' is (although he approaches it primarily from a screenwriting perspective). This excellent article sets out what he thinks is the difference between the 'high concept premise' and the 'elevator pitch'. The hook is both and neither. He calls it the 'What if...?' - whatever it is 'sucks the reader in and makes him or her want to know what happens next'. It's the opening gambit that reels you in.

                    And it's more than just an idea - it has to suggest or set up a story. 

                    "A fishing hook needs bait and a fisherman, though, and a writing hook needs a story. An unusual situation, however intriguing, is not a story. “A family digs a swimming pool in the backyard, and finds a buried time capsule” is a great premise for a novel – but what happens next? “A family’s discovery of a time capsule buried in their backyard makes them the targets of government agents from every country in the world” – that’s a story hook, because now we know that the time capsule sets a chain of events in motion."

                    Finder's take is only one of many, of course, but it's one I found useful. The linked article is only short, and definitely worth a read, I think!

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                    • Excellent article. Thanks for that

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                    • Thank you for Finder's article.  It was very helpful.  I spent ages writing a synopsis even though I read all the info on Jericho writers, I still kept thinking it was just a summary.  A published writer in my writers group, rewrote the first 300 words for me and I added 200 words.  All that sweating for this thing now its complete.  Thank goodness.   Julia

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                      • For me the HOOK is the elevator pitch - if you can't tell someone in less than forty words what it's about it's a synopsis - if you're subbing to an agent who will devote precisely 12.2 seconds to the title of your email - you need the hook in something that can be read in less than 10 seconds hence 40 words - your elevator pitch is your hook and your hook is your elevator pitch. Agents have the attention span of 3 year olds!

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                        • Hi Danny. I have no experience with agents so I can't comment on their attention span. To me, who mostly follows books and authors on Amazon, if the book description has a good hook in its heading, interested readers will look inside. The hook is best placed in the first para. Even better if it's the first sentence. Many prospective readers won't get past the first page during a look inside. Must grab them very quickly. Below is the first few sentences of my book which is not yet on Amazon and may never be (still thinking).

                          'Stuart gasped as the wet ground gripped his boots. He charged with his father’s two-hundred MacDonald Highlanders as they shrieked their war-cries.

                          From the British lines, cannons blasted deadly canister shots. Metal hissed through the air, tore holes through clothing, gun sacks, and then through the bodies of Stuart’s clansmen.

                          Over and through the sodden ground, he pressed on, an example of courage for his clan.

                          Ahead, spread out across the field, stood a wall of red-coated soldiers. Eight thousand strong, with bayonets glistening in three-line formations.'

                          This I believe is a hook. Regardless of whether the rest of the book is good or not, if readers want action I have given them some first up. What I designed as my major hook comes a few hundred words later, but I didn't want readers to wait, so I gave action lovers a preliminary hook.

                          It may depend on the genre of the book, but for action, thriller, my fantasy, and suspense, I say belt them between the eyes immediately. Rob.

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                          • If the 'hook' is solely aimed at an agent or a publisher, I would agree, Danny. But as I understand it (and I'm open to correction from those more experienced then me) the elevator pitch should try and summarise all of your story; everything that an agent or publisher will need to know to ensure you have a 'complete' narrative. The hook, on the other hand, is aimed at a wider audience which includes your potential readers, and there may be things that you want to withold from them so that you can spring a surprise on them at the relevant point in the story.

                            So, for instance, the elevator pitch that I eventually arrived after Harry's interesting webinar and the ensuing blog post a while ago, is:

                            When an ancient device is uncovered with the power to recreate the world anew without flaws or imperfections, a limbless thief must decide whether to sacrifice who she is now for the chance to reclaim who she once was

                            That's a pretty good summation of the entirety of both the external plot and the protagonist's inner conflict. The first few words give away exactly what the nature of my 'McGuffin' is, something that the protagonist (and therefore the reader) don't find out until more than halfway through the story. Also clearly stated is the choice that the protagonist faces at the climax of the book which will resolve her inner journey. 

                            An agent or a publisher might need to know both those things before deciding whether it's worth their effort to read on. But I wouldn't want a potential reader of the book to know about either of them before they start to read.

                            So my 'hook' - if aimed at the wider readership - has to be different and more limited than the pitch. It has to entice and tantalise the reader without giving away those aspects of the plot or theme that I want to keep in reserve. 

                            How the hook is delivered will vary. It can be the first sentence or paragraph, a well-chosen tag-line, the back cover blurb, a 'high concept', a particularly unusual character or setting... or a combination of any or all of these.

                            It's anything that makes the reader want to read on... or buy the book.

                            Anyway, that's how I currently understand it. The fact that there's so much discussion and debate, though, reveals that it's not at all cut and dried. So others may have a different take. 😆 

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                            • Hahahahahahahaha! Jon, you just gave away your secret. 'Ah!' he says, 'So I did.'

                              Take him out and thrash him, burn him at the stake!😃 She would be no good in the three legged race Archie was watching. 😂 

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                            • HI Robert

                              Your introduction is great and wants me to read the book, and I suppose there's a lot of ways of interpreting what a hook is - in music the hook is the chorus or the scrap of melody that hangs about in your brain hours after you listened to the song. In writing, I suppose it's the short phrase that makes the reader want to read the book, or makes an agent want to open your email.

                              Perhaps there's two different hooks required - one to hook an agent and one to hook a reader...

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                              • I don't think I agree with you about the chorus. The scrap of music that hangs around in your brain, is the key for me. Queen, The Show Must Go On, the orchestral before singing begins, blowsme, sticks in my brain. Same with INXS, Never Tear Us Apart. I'm hooked instantly. Precisely what I said before. Grab them, lock em down, and get them at least to the end of the first chapter-then you've got a great chance (smiley face. God I love Queen and INXS).

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