Tuesday, May 15, 2007

How many times can I rewrite the same hook?

Time will only tell, but I'm learning from each one. Hopefully this is useful in some way for everyone else as well; in any event, I really appreciate all the feedback that everyone has offered.

Here's the deal this time: I've been mulling over everyone's comments on my prior version, and reading the excellent Post-Hook-Contest Reflections (One and Two) at Fangs, Fur, & Fey, and something has occurred to me. My prior hook, even when tightened, was just too long. I decided to go look once again at the backs of some of books I've previously bought, and this also helped remind me that less is more. While I do still think it is important to hint a depth in a hook, I also think it's good not to be too complex. So here goes:

In 2018, Darrell Williams is living in an abandoned factory near the ruins of Alden Ridge. Nine years have passed since the undead grey men ended civilization, and now all that remains are small bands of survivors huddling in isolated towns. Darrell’s companions have turned the factory into something of a fortress—but as Alden Ridge starts to undergo another transformation, even this is of little solace. The landscape of the town is being twisted by a dark force that also makes the grey men increasingly aggressive. For Darrell to have any hope of saving himself and the others, he must unearth the truth about what is happening to Alden Ridge . . . but his discoveries will lead him to the most difficult decision of his life.

This one is only 128 words, rather than the prior 212. I know that it completely ignores some interesting plot elements that the other versions included, but that's kind of the idea. As the judge at the FFF contest said, I need to focus on the forest more so than the trees. How do you think I did?

Rip away, everyone.

UPDATE: I've made a slight change to the last sentence, combining it with the one before. I think this gives a better beat for the ending of the selection. Thoughts?


Rachel V. Olivier said...

I think you're on the right track. I like that it's shorter and doesn't tell me everything. It still doesn't sound quite finished though. I know that's vague. Sorry. But I do like it better than before. Good for you to keep at it!

Christopher M. Park said...

Thanks Rachel! That's okay about being vague; I'll see if anyone else has any ideas on that, and otherwise just set it aside for a week or two and then look at it again to see it with fresh eyes. Perhaps I can adjust the wording at the end to give it a little more punch or something.

Colleen said...

Hey Chris: This is a good blurb. What would you think about moving the 2nd sentence to first (because undead guys ending the world is more interesting than a guy living somewhere,)deleting the first part of the 3rd sentence and combining the rest of that sentence with the next one. The last sentence is great. Full of tension. If I recall from previous versions, you mentioned his daughter. This might be an element to consider keeping as it gave the opportunity to put something in about the protag's development from daddy to hero. Just a thought. Best of luck! Colleen

Anonymous said...

Doesn't do it for me. Presumes knowledge of the previous book. Without that knowledge the reference to Alden Ridge is confusing and of little significance. No sense of who Darrell is. He's just a guy living in some fortress. So what? The landscape is being twisted? I don't get a clear sense of what the danger is here. Where's the conflict? I advise that you be more specific about the choice that Darrell must make and why that decision is difficult.

Christopher M. Park said...

For timing reasons I really do prefer having my first two sentences in the order that they are in. It just doesn't sound as right to me when I switch them, though I see why you (and a couple of others) suggest switching it. I may ultimately do that, but I'm not ready to just yet. I prefer to open with the main character and a situation that seems a bit bizzare (who lives in an abandoned factory) before I follow that up with the real kicker of the undead ending civilization.

The timing and content of the third and fourth sentences are intended to give some sense of what has been going on before the start of the book, and why I am starting the story here. In other words, they had holed up and that worked for about a decade, but now that's not working so well any more because the order of the world as they know it is changing once again. Perhaps I didn't accomplish that as well as I'd hoped with those two actual sentences, but if I replace them that's still what I'd like to get across (and I feel like I need more of a transition to the fourth sentence than just combining it with the third).

I do note the daughter again now, in my most recent version. I do like your idea of putting in something about "the protag's development from daddy to hero," but I haven't quite figured out how to work that in yet. I'll have to think on that some more.

Thanks for all the comments and ideas!

Colleen said...

Chris: This is tougher than writing the book in many ways, I feel. I know you'll get something you're happy with! Colleen

Christopher M. Park said...

I'm sorry it didn't do it for you. There isn't a previous book to this, by the way--I suppose the reference to Alden Ridge in the first line was inappropriately vague, which is what made you think that. I've made an adjustment that hopefully makes that more clear.

I'm a bit torn, because I definitely want to give a sense of who Darrell is, but that's hard to do in such a short format. I believe my sample pages do an effective job of characterizing him almost immediately, and I've read very few hooks that really gave a large sense of who the protagonist was, so I'm mostly striving for brevity. But if I can figure out a line or part of a line to add to give a better insight into his character, I'll definitely do so. That's something for me to think about a little more.

At any rate, I've reworded a lot of the hook so that hopefully the danger and the conflict are more apparent now. I'm not sure I want to be much more specific about what the decision is, as it requires a relatively complicated setup and is also a major spoiler.

Thanks for your suggestions!

Christopher M. Park said...

Colleen: You bet! That's why I started so darn early this time. If I only had a few weeks or months in which to do this, it would drive me mad. I'm definitely getting progressively happier with these versions, though. Thanks for your support!