12.13.2006

4:33***

I have been reluctant to ask you yet another Crapometer question for fear that this one would make you throw your hands up in frustration and give up on the whole thing. But here goes...

My hook, which I have rewritten just about a zillion times in a million different formats, is now only 84 words. Truth is, I am quite happy with it (I'm sure you'll set me straight on Saturday) but there is still that part of me that screams 'What about the remaining 166 words?!? Use them!' Is brevity truly the soul of the hook? Or should I make use of what is available to me and fill in the word count?

In the revising (and revising and revising) of the hook, I followed your advice and got rid of anything smelling of synopsis. I now have a few sentences that give a little taste of the story with a hint at the ending without giving much away. I tried to think of it as the first paragraph in the query to an agent, which of course would have a second (and maybe third) paragraph with a synopsis in it.

Am I on the right track or am I just a Nitwit?


Yes, no.



**bonus points for people who get the reference and comment on the significance to the post.

33 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thirteen minutes after we all get high?

Anonymous said...

MARK 4:33 says:

And with many such parables He(She?) spoke the word to them as they were ABLE TO HEAR IT.

Apparently, Miss Snark is the Messiah we have been waiting for...

Illiah said...

I'll venture that since food isn't mentioned, it wasn't John 4:33.

Mark 4:33 And with many such parables He spoke the word to them as they were able to hear it.

Significance: You have to tell your story in a way that the audience can hear it. If your audience is a bleary eyed agent's assistant with a slush pile taller than George Clooney, succinct is a good thing.

Pisica said...

I'd guess the reference is to John Cage's piano piece 4:33, but I'm not entirely sure of the significance...something to do with the silence?

Erin. said...

The closest thing I can think of is 4:48 Psychosis, the play by Sarah Kane. I know that Isabelle Huppert was performing it in New York for a while, so it makes sense a New Yorker would know about it. The play is called 4:48 Psychosis, I believe, because it's the time of day (or early morning) when most suicides occur. The author committed suicide not long after and wrote the play in an asylum.

WickedSmaht said...

Would I be right in guessing that you're referring to John Cage's composition 4'33"? The composition consists of 4 minutes and 33 seconds of silence, and while originally composed for piano, it can be played on any instrument.

Relevance to the post? I don't suppose that you can be any more brief than that, and Cage seems to have made it work.

(Due credit to Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/4'33)

Anonymous said...

Gotta be John Cage. Less is more.

Stephen Parrish said...

"Dear Miss Snark, here's my work, it's called 4:33, love ya, let's do lunch."

Bill Peschel said...

If it's a Cage reference, it would mean that minimalism is best.

Say as little as you need to get the point across, and let your audience use its imagination to fill in the rest.

Perhaps in that spirit, it would be better to say:

"If hook = 4'3", then hook = submission."

Robert M said...

Dang... pisica beat me to it. And I would imagine the significance refers to cutting everything that doesn't belong. There are no audible notes in Cage's piece, not because he couldn't think of them, but because they didn't belong in that piece.

Alphabet said...

John Cage, and the significance, I'm guessing, is that you can pare and pare and pare, and still have something magnificient - so don't worry about paring too much, and don't worry about the 166-word silence....

Pixel Faerie said...

It is one of the rules from the last Crapometer.

Quoting: "How many words minimum?

14: Dear Miss Snark, Here's my work, it's called 4:33, Love ya, let's do lunch"

Minimal is better.

Richard Nash said...

John Cage it is. I would hazard that the remaining 166 onspoken words can be filled with the sound of Miss Snark thinking...

manic mom said...

What? What?? No hint of a synopsis? Just a hook? What did I miss? When? Aaargh, damn housework, damn shopping .... anyone want to adopt a lovable child and useless hubby?

No matter said...

4.33 is the title of a piece of music for piano by John Cage.

Strictly speaking it should be titled 4'33", as in "4 minutes, 33 seconds" because that is its length.

The beauty of this composition is that it is four minutes and 33 seconds of silence. The pianist sits at the piano and times the piece with a stopwatch.

It is Cage's most famous musical composition.

It is significant because it is a different interpretation to music than anything previously composed ever; and it celebrates brevity, which I suspect was the point of the title.

Readers may find it interesting that in the UK, on Remembrance Sunday (the closest Sunday to the 11th November) the two minutes' silence at the Cenotaph in London, where the monarch, leading politicians and military personnel acknowledge the sacrifice of those who died in warfare, is broadcast live. It is not actually silent, because there is birdsong and the odd cough and the distant roar of traffic, but it is beautiful and poignant. A recording is available.

I realise that I have not been brief, or even silent, which no doubt will attract opprobrium, but I was so delighted with the title of this post and its associated memories for me, that I wanted to share it with the other snarklings.

I'll get my coat now...

Anonymous said...

Crap, you just had to go and post this one, didn't you Miss Snark? I had such a nice hook and mini-synopsis put together, melded perfectly so you wouldn't notice, and now I had to pull out the cool synopsis part. I'm gonna be really pissed if there are mini-synopsies that sneak through, because it was beautiful man, 250 glorious words, and now I'm left with barely 100.

Dave said...

Didn't Shakespeare say that brevity is the soul of wit?

Terry said...

The transcription of 4:33 for bagpipes is the only tolerable piece of music for that instrument. The original Cage version is excellent background music for minimalist hooking.

Anonymous said...

4 pounds I will gain this weekend
33 seconds it will take Miss Snark to tell me WTF

4 bottles of Vodka will be needed to kill the pain
33 dollars it will cost me + liver issues

4 signes Miss Snark wants me to see
33 being the sign: Larry Bird, Jesus, Club on Boylston, my age? WTF?

Stop playing with my head!
The hook is enough!

Zany Mom said...

I once had a critter on a crit site tell my that my writing made the reader use his/her imagination too much, that I needed to get into their heads more and offer more of the characters's thoughts and motivations.

Funny, I like tight, clean writing that allows me, the reader, to create the scene in my head. I've gone back to some of my favorite book scenes to see how the writer set it up, and I'm always amazed not at what they wrote, but with what they left out, that I imagined...

Stylistic differences? I dunno. I like brief and to the point. :) (as I continue to ramble...)

Anonymous said...

Erin, I dislike wrong information in general, but as a close friend of Sarah Kane's, let me correct you. 4:48 is the moment of clarity during the night, the moment of truth, according to the play, when depression can either be at its most intense or paradoxically, seem to let up. Sarah was never in an asylum. She wrote most of the play in her Brixton flat.

Starving Writer said...

...I had my own (mini) performance of 4'33" when I read some of the ideas of what 4:33 could mean...

Faustus, M.D. said...

My favorite thing about 4'33" is that it is in three movements.

Xiqay said...

Sheesh. I though 4:33 meant you were up all night going through last minute questions about the C-O-M and writing your answer at 4:33 AM.

Then I thought you were looking for comments on the "brevity is the soul of" phrase in the question.

Then I tried to match up stars, but there are 3 at the 4:33 and only 2 at the bonus points footnote.

So I give up.

Is that the correct answer? (Or is it really John Cage?)

Jessica said...

I vote for: "Dear Miss Snark, here's my work, it's called 4:33, love ya, let's do lunch."

archer said...

I have nothing to add to the post on John Cage, other than that minimalists of his era went around speaking in Zen-like aphorisms much like Miss Snark's reply. She is being a bit snide; back then, such answers were considered charismatic. She pokes fun at her own wit.

Dave said...

I played friggen bagpipes in college and I can do all the jokes. So don't even start.
If a piper says he been playing for twenty years, how much of that time is spent tuning up? the answer is TEN years and he STILL out of key and off pitch.

;)

spyscribbler said...

Hmmm ... it's true that he originally composed it for silence, but as it was performed (and when he first performed it), it became more about the sounds of the audience and their life is music itself.

I'd say the moral of the story is to make your point with as little notes (words) as you need.

Cage didn't need any. If he'd used a few more notes, he would have spoiled the message he wanted to convey.

cm allison said...

erin,
sorry , a person cannot commit suicide and live to write about it. They can, however, attempt suicide and write about it (but why?)

Anonymous said...

This is making me absolutely crazy. I don't see why you would need, or could possibly write, a hook that is anywhere near 250 words, so I assumed a mini-synopsis was acceptable, with the hook sentence included, and I have spent long days composing mine. Now someone says they'll be pissed if Miss Snark asks for a submission in response to a mini-synopsis. This isn't fair. Two different guidlines are being sent out. I guess I could just forget about sending anything, and get on back to the holiday spirit. Humbug!

David A. Todd said...

It's 4:33 PM. Posting is allowed at 5:00 PM, and we're sweating over getting our 250 words perfect.

It's too late by that time.

C.E. Petit said...

The reference, as noted above, is to Cage's piano piece "4 min 33 sec", which is 4 minutes and 33 sections of absolute silence. (Geek trivia note: 4 minutes 33 seconds = 273 seconds; ignoring a decimal, -273 Celsius = 0 Kelvin = "absolute zero". It took me ten seconds to figure this out when I was fourteen and a serious student of classical music... which probably says more about me than y'all want to know.)

And how does this relate to query letters? Because, like that pianist sitting with a stopwatch, the query letter has no ultimate meaning itself; it is a method of getting attention for something else. It also implies that what one does not say in the query letter is as important as what one does say.

Walrus said...

If it's Scriptural, a better reference would be Matt. 6:7 But when you pray, do not vainly babble words as the heathen do - for they think that in their much speaking they shall be heard.