Monday, February 14, 2011

The Hook

O.k. so I am sure there were some of you that read my post last week and scoffed at the fact that I said the synopsis would only take a couple of days to complete. A little heads up would have been nice!!

I spent two days and have now whittled it down to 700 words. I am partially happy that it covers the main plot of the story now, but I am not convinced an editor will love it. I’ve read some authors who have said the synopsis is the hardest part in writing. I can see why they say that, but at the end of the day, you are writing about the story you know inside out. For me, it is just a case of tinkering with it until it feels right (get your minds out of the gutter people). Having said that, what do I know? I haven’t sent anything off yet.

The other headache is the submission letter. This traditionally is made up of 3 parts:

1)      The hook
2)      Description of the book
3)      Author bio.

Today I have been focussing on the hook. After all, this is the part that needs to grab the editor’s attention. There are numerous websites that offer advice on the hook. Some of them are excellent but all agree there is no willing formula. I think the best way to learn what makes a good hook is to see what is out there. Below I have listed some “hooks” used by the best selling fantasy authors in recent years. I have also made a note of how many words they have used in the description of their book:

Robin Hobb – Assassin’s Apprentice - Fitz is a royal bastard, cast out into the world with only his magical link with animals for solace and companionship. 112 words

Joe Abercrombie – The Blade itself - Inquisitor Glokta, a crippled and increasingly bitter relic of the last war, former fencing champion turned torturer extraordinaire, is trapped in a twisted and broken body - not that he allows it to distract him from his daily routine of torturing smugglers. 208 words

Scott Lynch – The Lies of Lock Lamorra - They say that the Thorn of Camorr can beat anyone in a fight. They say he steals from the rich and gives to the poor. They say he's part man, part myth, and mostly street-corner rumor. And they are wrong on every count. Only averagely tall, slender, and god-awful with a sword, Locke Lamora is the fabled Thorn, and the greatest weapons at his disposal are his wit and cunning. 234 words

Patrick Rothfuss – The Name of the Wind - 'I have stolen princesses back from sleeping barrow kings. I burned down the town of Trebon. 168 words
Mark C Newton – Nights of Villjamur - An ice age strikes a chain of islands, and thousands come to seek sanctuary at the gates of Villjamur: a city of ancient spires and bridges, a place where banshees wail the deceased, cultists use forgotten technology for their own gain and where, further out, the dead have been seen walking across the tundra. 185 words

Brent Weeks – The Way of Shadows - The perfect killer has no friends. Only targets. 117 words

Below is the description I have had for the Ritual of the stones since the book began:

Rob Donovan – Ritual of the Stones – Every 12 years the Ritual of the Stones takes place. 12 people are selected and one is sacrificed to the Gloom, a shadowy creature that haunts Frindoth.

When Rhact learns that his daughter has been selected to take part in the Ritual, he takes his family and flees. In doing everything he can to protect his family, Rhact has no idea of the repercussions of his actions.

Elsewhere, in the city of Lilyon, King Jacquard struggles to maintain peace and order over the Kingdom. A growing number of factions seek to take advantage of the Ritual and claim the Kingdom for themselves.

The destiny of the Kingdom relies on the Order, a group of powerful beings, but even amongst their ranks deception and betrayal emerges. For Marybeth believes she has discovered a way to defeat the Gloom, a secret the Order may not want to get out. 

Through the lives of these three individuals, the ballad of Frindoth begins.
Rather bland isn’t it? I am happy with the content of most of the description but the hook is definitely the weakest part and needs addressing. I have also added the last 2 lines. Marybeth is quite a big character in the book and yet I don’t even mention her in the blurb!

Below is my next attempt. It conveys the same message but is a little more punchier.

2) The Ritual of the Stones is once again upon Frindoth. Twelve years have past since the Gloom claimed its last sacrificial victim and now it is the time has come for the ritual to decide who will be next.
I am also toying with the idea of this one:

3) Twelve years have past since the Gloom claimed its last sacrificial victim and now once again it is time for the Ritual of the Stones. From all over Frindoth, twelve unfortunate souls will be selected and one will be offered to the Gloom.

Or even this:

4) For as long as the history texts can recall the Ritual of the Stones has taken place in Frindoth. It is always the same, every twelve years; twelve people are selected to be sacrificed to the Gloom.
I’d love to know which one you prefer. What one would make you want to read on?