Nine years have passed since the Dead ended civilization. The few remaining survivors huddle in isolated towns that have been refit to repel the nightmare creatures prowling the countryside. Darrell Williams was once a respected black doctor in a rural white town, but now he is haunted by the memory of his wife, Mary, slumped against the furniture store window where she was inexplicably murdered by transients. He will never forget how the undead rage transformed her as she rose to kill the family she had cherished only moments before.
One quiet morning his house is stormed by his neighbors, all of whom apparently perished during the night in a fire that his four-year-old daughter, Lela, glimpsed in her dreams. The two find asylum with refugees in an electronics factory many miles downriver, but the Dead are escalating out of control there, too. As the creatures become unusually erratic and aggressive, little Lela discovers clues to the twisted logic that drives them -- but then she disappears. Darrell is left to search for answers and his daughter with only the help of strangers in a hostile, ruined world.
Thursday, November 29, 2007
Looks like I haven't posted a new version of my hook since June, but I have been working on it on-and-off steadily since then. I think I've gotten a lot better at this whole process in general. Here's the shiny latest version:
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I like it, and would definitely be interested in reading the story to find out what happens. I do think it could do with more tightening, though (e.g. does a hook need to say Darrell is a "respected black doctor in a rural white town" - is this part of the *hook*? I think you need to put the conflict more up front - a lot of the first para is background. You certainly need to make more of the fact that Lela is taken - from what I can see here, I'd say apart from general survival, your central conflict/motivation is that Darrell find his missing daughter. It seems a bit tacked on at the end.
It sounds like such a good story, I just feel your hook doesn't get to the heart of it quickly enough. :)
Thanks for the great feedback, Karen! I'll have to let that marinate for a while, and then see what I can do with it. Writing hooks is hard -- I'm really glad I started so early!
Take with a grain of salt...
On a whole, it is a much better version than you've posted previously. It is clear and concise. I give you big Kudos for that.
However, I wonder if you've noticed that 3/4ths of your query has to do with backstory? Backstory should at most be one sentence, perhaps two. The main body of the query should be the action that moves your book forward through those first 50 pages.
I might start working on my hook/query this weekend. I know I won't need it for some time yet, but it really is *so* difficult! I've never tried properly before, so we'll see what I can do. It helps me to read others - like yours! - so I at least have a starting place and am learning before I attempt it...
Heather, thanks very much for your thoughts. You make a good point that basically my first paragraph is backstory, but with fantasy it seems like having some idea of the world (so that the conflict makes sense) is necessary. I'm not quite sure what to do about that, or how to restructure it. Perhaps I need to start with the conflict, and have the worldbuilding notes get interspersed. That is, of course, how it happens in the actual book, but this short format is still a bit unnatural for me, though I am getting more used to it.
On the other hand, you said you thought that 3/4 of my hook was backstory, which was a bit startling. The entire second paragraph is basically the start of the book, and one important string of events that kicks off during the first 150 pages (there is another sub-plot that features more heavily in the first 80 pages alone, but that's more complex to explain and involves my third main character). Perhaps the way in which items in the second paragraph are phrased makes it seem like backstory even though it's not?
I'll definitely have to think about this more. Thanks again for your feedback!
Sounds great, Karen! You should definitely post versions of it on LJ -- or share it around with some of your CPs and/or blogging buddies (hint, hint :) ) if you don't want it publicly out there. I think getting a lot of different opinions is helpful, if only to see that nothing you do will please everyone (at least that's been my experience). But seriously, people routinely point out things that I didn't think of, and each one adds something different.
Anyway, I bet you will have a jump on the process just by having studied other peoples' hooks before writing your own. Good luck on your own first endeavor!
Perhaps the way in which items in the second paragraph are phrased makes it seem like backstory even though it's not?
If I may be so bold:
Darrell Williams, a once respected black doctor before the end of civilization by the Dead, is haunted by the memory of his wife Mary. When his house is stormed by his undead neighbors, he flees with his daughter, Lela, to find asylum with refuges in an abandoned factory.
[A little about the Dead losing control here. Make it creepy using action words and in present tense, not past]. Lela discovers clues to the twisted logic that drives them – but then she disappears. Darrell is left to search for answers and his daughter with only the help of strangers in a hostile, ruined world.
(obviously I loved the end)
Heather, you are a dear! You have a lot of tremendously good suggestions there. I'm working on a revised version which will incorporate a lot of your ideas, and I'll post it when I'm done (might be tomorrow, not sure how long this will take). Thanks very much!
Okay, the new version is up! That happened faster than I expected.
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