Sunday, April 29, 2007

Even more hook tightening

Here's, the current version, even further tightened based on some excellent suggestions from Karen Mahoney:

Ever since his wife was murdered, Darrell Williams has cared only about keeping his four-year old daughter safe, but doing so is becoming increasingly difficult even in his isolated riverside home. Nine years have passed since the undead grey men ended civilization, and while most of the scattered remaining humans have settled into a routine of bare survival, the order of Darrell’s life never quite recovered. When everyone else in the town near his home is killed in an attack by the grey men, Darrell and his daughter flee to Alden Ridge, where they are welcomed because he was once a doctor.

Together with Elaine Ward and the other inhabitants of an old factory, Darrell hopes he can finally create a good life for his daughter. But the grey men in the wilderness around Alden Ridge are becoming more violent, and it is clear that the town will soon fall. The situation deteriorates even further when two men claiming to be military scouts arrive in town—they say theirs is a mission of aid, but Darrell believes they were involved in his wife’s murder. Darrell and Elaine’s only hope of saving Alden Ridge is to discover the secrets behind the rise of the grey men and the fall of the modern world.

Thoughts? It's about 30 words shorter than the last version, and definitely flows more quickly in a few key places. Rachel, does this help with the issues you had with the last paragraph? Thanks to everyone who has been kind enough to offer suggestions and criticism!


Anonymous said...

Your second sentence needs to be your first sentence (switch).

I’m pretty sure it’s “four-year-old” (hyphens all the way through).

The first sentence is a bit convoluted. “Ever since his wife was murdered, Darrell Williams has cared only about keeping his four-year old daughter safe, but doing so is becoming increasingly difficult even in his isolated riverside home.” If you switch the sentences, you already know about the grey men so you could say something like, “With his wife dead, keeping his four-year-old daughter safe becomes increasingly difficult.”

“…because he was once a doctor.” This seems like it was tacked on as an afterthought.

The second paragraph kind of loses me. It sounds like a synopsis. It’s easier to break down your hook into two distinct paragraphs. Paragraph one is your premise (you’ve done that by talking about the grey men and the daughter etc – perhaps you can put Elaine in here). And then paragraph two should be about your plot. It should tell what the struggle is in this book – not the ways in which they overcome the struggle.

I hope this helps.

Rachel V. Olivier said...

I think Heather has some good advice there. The third sentence of the second paragraph still bothers me, but it could be a matter of my style vs. your style. I would have said, "Complications arise when...." for example. Try to keep your sentences as active as possible. I, personally, can fall into the passive sentence trap because I do so much academic writing and proofing. So, I try to watch for that myself.

Put it away for a week. Just don't look at it at all. Come at it with fresh eyes and try to see it as someone reading the back of a book and deciding whether or not to buy it. Then see what you would do.

Christopher M. Park said...

Heather and Rachel,
Thank you both for your suggestions; I think you both have some really great ideas here. Heather, I especially like your thoughts on how to restructure my hook.

And I also think that Rachel is right--not only do I tend to lapse into passive tense in hook-writing, I've been staring at this for too long at present, and I need to put it away for a bit. I'll revisit it in a few weeks, and see what I can do to work in your suggestions then.

Thanks to both of you!


MelodyO said...

Hey, I found you through a link wherein someone was telling you that a yellow rejection note from an agent is UNACCEPTABLE OMG!!!! Heh.

I thought you might like some suggestions from a total stranger who knows absolutely nothing about your book, your query, or you.

Let me start by saying writing the query letter was just as freaking hard as writing my novel, so I feel for you. Now, on to the pokes with a hot stick. :0P

-- I agree with the other comment: switch the first two sentences around.
-- "where they are welcomed because he was a doctor" I know what you're trying to do here, but it's not working. I think you'd be better off using that sentence to describe the people of Alden Ridge, and how they managed to keep themselves alive after the big bad.
-- "bare survival" Find a more evocative word than "bare".
-- Don't bother naming Elaine; tell what her place is in the story maybe?
-- How can the grey men become MORE violent when they've already wiped out civilization? Hee! Do you mean they're going after the pockets of resistance, the buggers?
-- "the town will soon fall" Something more emotional here, please.
-- "The situation deteriorates even further" Take it out.
-- The part with the scouts is the weakest bit of your query. I know - it is SO HARD to explain a many-layered plot in 250 words. ::rubs your back:: I think maybe for the purposes of the query you should leave out the part about his wife's murder - I don't care about her, only about the survival of him and his kid. Ratchet up the impending doooom of the last scraps of humanity as they rush to discover the secrets of the grey men!!!!

All of this is just my opinion, of course, and could be completely off base. I hope it helps in some small way.

Christopher M. Park said...

Thanks very much for the comments and feedback, and welcome to my blog! You definitely have some good ideas there; seems like you are basically advocating to simplify the hook, so that it is more focused on one thing: the grey men. I'll try doing a hook from that angle, with a little more detail there and a lot less detail on the side aspects of the story. Perhaps this will result in a hook with a greater focus than the current iteration. I'll give this a shot and post it when I've completed it.

Thanks again!