Friday, March 6, 2009

Hook, line and hopefully not a stinker, er . . .sinker

The query.

I'm agonizing over it. Well, not really the whole thing. I'm stressing over how to come up with a clever hook.

It shouldn't be a problem for me.

My friend, Grace, calls me the queen of clever kickers. (Kickers are the little "headlines" that go over feature photos in the newspaper.) And the other day, my blogging bud, Sue Seeger, (pseudosue) dubbed me the queen of snappy headlines.

So, coming up with a tight hook should be a breeze, right?

Not quite.

I'm following the guidelines I usually follow in writing a lede for a news story. I call it the 3-S rule -- simple, snappy, strong.

Keeping it simple means keeping that intro sentence under 30 syllables. Treat each agent as if he/she suffers from a scorching case of ADHD. (I should say that a proper name only counts as two syllables.)

Make it snappy means try to use a play on words. The trick here is to not be cliche.

And make it strong means avoiding passive verbs. (Because they're booooooo-ring.)

Here's the evolution of my query hook.

"Some of life's toughest battles are fought in the soul." (12 syllables)

It's deep, but I don' t like it because there's no object, no character to grab the attention of a literary agent. So, I thought about changing it to:

"Heather Montgomery fights her life's toughest battles in her soul."

It's still only 12 syllables, but now it feels clunky. And I'm still not intrigued.

So, I decided to get out the tarot deck and play the death card:

"Heather Montgomery's soul died the night her father almost killed her and her unborn son." (18 syllables)

The problem? You mean aside from being melodramatic? It feels clunky, too. (To tell the truth, I ended up getting a partial request with this one.)

So, not only have I gone back to the drawing board with revisions in the story, I'm back to coming up with a new query hook.

Here are some of the latest:

"It's hard to hang on when you can't let go." (10 syllables)

A writing buddy of mine told me this was way too confusing.

"Heather Montgomery never wanted to be her father's daughter." (13 syllables)

Here, I say to myself: "Careful, Kat, you're stepping on that borderline between clever and cliche."

"A baby in her womb. Bruises on her face. A scar on her soul." (16 syllables)

Nope. This one doesn't go anywhere. It doesn't move anything.

"Running away can' t keep Heather Montgomery from following in her father's footsteps." (18 syllables.

Now, this one has possibilities.

But I'm what about:

"Running away leads Heather Montgomery down the same path that turned her father into a monster."

Hehe. It's no wonder so many writers go insane.


Anonymous said...

Hmm...lots of good choices - Personally, I like the 18 syllable one (second to last one)...NICE

Kate Karyus Quinn said...

I feel your pain. This is on my to-do list as soon as I finish up my WIP. I dread it.

I think you have a lot of good stuff here, but I agree Christine that the 2nd to last might be the keeper.

Anonymous said...

Oh girl. I STINK at these. But I've learned a lot about them in the last month or so....since I've done a few of them for my latests Wips (Violet Midnight and Guardian).

I've heard you shouldn't use the first and last name in a hook. So, if you took out'd save some syllables.

On one site, where I filled in the query info, it asked for a TEN WORD sentence to HOOK him. YIKES. TEN WORDS for a 78,000 word novel. OUCH.

Girl, you are so witty, you'll pick a good one. If you wanna brainstorm, you know you can find me on FaceBook or email any time. I love brainstorming these kind of things.

Crimogenic said...

You always know I think at queries and hook lines, etc.

But IMO, the last two hook lines were very good. I would have kept reading on after either one of those. :)

gzusfreek said...

Who am I? But I like:
"Running away can' t keep Heather from following in her father's footsteps." and "It's hard to hang on when you can't let go." and "Some of life's toughest battles are fought in the soul."
I'm with Lynn. You are so creative. It's going to come to you. Probably at 2 am just after you went to bed at 1230 am, right? :) Thanks for sharing this. It is a learning tool, as well as, an window into your world.