12.17.2006

HH Com 115

Twenty miles off the Jersey shore, a seventeen-year old girl stands alone at the helm of a small schooner, sailing under the cover of darkness. Her cargo: the remains of a stranger who attacked her earlier that night.

The girl is Hazel Moran, a trucker’s daughter, and she’s anything but your typical Jersey girl. Sheltered and home schooled, she’s grown up aboard the schooner ‘Witch’ and riding shotgun in the cab of an old Kenworth with her father.

There’s not much on the water or the road she can’t handle; its people she’s not so sure about. But when this shy girl from a ghost-town on the Delaware Bay becomes the target of a ruthless group hunting for her blue-haired brother, a stolen tractor-trailer truck, and a delivery that never arrived, she’s forced into the role of a reluctant Travis McGee.

For ten sweltering days leading up to the Fourth of July, she navigates the waters and highways of New Jersey, armed with fishing tackle, high voltage and ingenuity as she searches for her missing brother and a shipment people are dying over. Faced with white trash, Born Agains, appliance salesmen, a suspiciously wealthy stranger and an unstable stalker, Hazel has a lot to learn as she sets in motion a twisted plot to take them down one by one. Take the LAST EXIT IN NEW JERSEY, where the lines dividing innocence from evil and devotion from depravity aren’t always clear, and nothing is coincidence.


This is a synopsis not a hook. Of course, it hooked me, thus proving you don't always need a hook to be hooked.

What got me: "reluctant Travis McGee". Of course I love those books. "Last Exit in New Jersey" which is homage to Herbert Selby also an icon. "For ten days" lends an urgency and immediacy to the book too.

Plus Hazel sounds like a kick ass girl.



To be a hook, you need to tighten it up, prune the recitation of events and focus on what Hazel has to do or decide.

29 comments:

Writerious said...

To be a hook, you need to tighten it up, prune the recitation of events and focus on what Hazel has to do or decide.

Okay, I was gonna ask what's the fine-line difference between a short synopsis and a hook, since all the hook examples seem to briefly summarize at least some of the action. I think that explains it.

Now to try to put that into practice.

Zany Mom said...

An intriguing premise. I do hope you go farther than the stereotypical home-schooled girl being sheltered, as in most cases that's not true. And shyness isn't something inherent of homeschoolers either (plenty of us shy introverts who went to school!)

I'd read it.

KingM said...

This needs another draft, to come up with something tighter, more focused. But it's interesting enough as is that I'd read it. If nothing else, the writer seems to know what he/she is doing.

Anonymous said...

Since I had no idea who Travis McGee is that didn't work for me. Also, there was nothing in your hook that made me care about Hazel.

But this sentence: "where the lines dividing innocence from evil and devotion from depravity aren’t always clear" perplexed me. Since innocence pretty much means lack of evil how can the dividing line be unclear? And, for me devotion and depravity aren't on the same contiuum at all so there would be no need for dividing lines at all. But I would read pages to see if you knew what you were doing or if your word choice in the hook just sucked.

Anonymous said...

White Trash and Born Agains....
as a pervous poster commented on another story, the white guy as trash/evil again. Give me a break as well.

katiesandwich said...

I liked this, but I have to agree with a previous poster that I don't think describing her as a shy homeschooler, as if that's the only kind, is working for me. I know about a dozen homeschoolers, and not a one of them is shy.

Anonymous said...

> I do hope you go farther than the stereotypical home-schooled girl being sheltered

I do.

> White Trash and Born Agains....
as a pervous poster commented on another story, the white guy as trash/evil again. Give me a break as well.

Actually, if you read again, you'll notice I'm not saying the 'white guy' is evil, or even that the 'white trash' is. I don't distinguish who on that list of falls into either category, though in Hazel's eyes at first everyone is a threat, until proven otherwise. I was trying to think of a way to say Hazel must be careful, because appearances are deceptive (but that's cliche). Saying any more on that in the hook would be a spoiler.

The other line I considered was something about the risk of upsetting a teenage girl with the keys to a Kenworth.

So much to think about!

Zuleme said...

Can you really sail a schooner single handed? Make it maybe 24 feet and I wouldn't stumble over it.

Southern Writer said...

Probably not my kind of book, but damn, there's some great writing here!

shannon said...

There's something confusing about the way Hazel is described. "Shy" and "sheltered" are used, but she's also a trucker's daughter and I would think she'd be a bit tough for it.

Maybe that's just me, but I understand you want to show she is rising to the occassion, so to speak, and isn't of the same mold as her obviously dodgy brother, yet she seems far more capable than being "shy" and "sheltered" would normally indicate.

HawkOwl said...

It had potential right up to the point where it turns out to be a seventeen-year-old. Then I already didn't care about it. The fact that it then turns out to be some tedious mystery-action kinda thing is just the icing on the cake. The fact that I don't believe it's gonna be factually correct about trucks or schooners doesn't even make it sound worse. Basically a crime-solving teenager is plenty lame enough for me. I suppose it's intended as YA, though. Judging from this crapometer, it's amazing what you can sell to kids. Good luck with it.

michaelgav said...

There was a lot here that I liked.

Miss Snark's readers tend to universalize the adjectives used to describe certain characters in the Crapometer. You describe this particular home schooler as shy, and you get three comments telling you home schoolers aren't necessarily shy. Okay, but can't this one be shy? Please?

Anonymous said...

I was going to say almost exactly what michaelgav said. As a new writer, I find it discouraging that so many characters one might come up with are looked upon as cliches or stereotypes. Well, aren't there lots of evil/trashy white people? (I realize the author here didn't actually say that.) Aren't there lots of shy homeschoolers? I know several painfully shy homeschoolers personally. When there are basically only two choices, shy or not shy, either one is probably viewed as a stereotype by somebody. How can a writer win?

If you write about a soccer mom driving a minivan, people would probably chime in with, "Hey, I know lots of soccer moms who drive Hummers! Please don't perpetuate the minivan stereotype."

Not trying to criticize those who commented above—just honestly making the point that not all characters have to differ from the usual expectations.

C E Grundler said...

> Can you really sail a schooner single handed?

A 44 footer, yes, but with difficulty. She's alone at the helm. There's others aboard, but revealing that immediately takes away from the suspense. Again there's only so much room in 250 words, but within the first page of the book that becomes apparent.

> The fact that it then turns out to be some tedious mystery-action kinda thing is just the icing on the cake.

That's the last thing it turns out to be. But I had to focus on one aspect, and I chose what launches the story. I'm still trying to figure out where and how to tweek this without making my hook into a train-wreck in the process.

> The fact that I don't believe it's gonna be factually correct about trucks or schooners

Try me. I come from a long line of truckers and sailors, I've been sailing single-handed aboard my gaff-rigger for years, and my day-job is managing a 150 year old boatyard. I tried to tone down the boat and truck tech stuff in the book so I wouldn't lose non-sailing and trucking readers.

> Basically a crime-solving teenager is plenty lame enough for me.

And overdone. Again, it's back to how much I can fit in the hook, without just typing some spoilers. My biggest fear writing this was that it would be categorized as 'teen Jersey girl mystery'. For reasons critical to the plot, her age is what it is, and there's a mystery. But Fight Club is more than just guys beating the crap out of each other. And I've been pulling my hair out trying to figure out how to include certain elements without mucking up the hook.

A Paperback Writer said...

white trash, Born Agains, appliance salesmen, a suspiciously wealthy stranger and an unstable stalker

I laughed out loud over this line. I hope it was supposed to be funny. If it isn't, you're setting yourself up for trouble, but if it is -- great fun.
I liked Hazel, too.

Anonymous said...

I'd read that one- but who's Travis McGee?

C E Grundler said...

> I laughed out loud over this line. I hope it was supposed to be funny.

Yes!! Thank you! The whole story is meant to be funny, in a dark, twisted way. This is where the hook is so hard. You read some hooks, and you wonder, are they serious? Am I supposed to laugh? When I wrote this story, I tried to make it one where you find yourself laughing at the worst possible moments. But the challenge is conveying that in the hook.

As for the whole shy/home-schooled debate, that, again, comes down to choice of words. If I described Hazel as anti-social, that comes off in a more negative way. And that aspect has nothing to do with home-schooling and more to do with other factors in her environment, which come to light through the story. Yes, she is extremely capable, as life on a boat will make you. But her social skills are sorely lacking, and that plays into how the story unfolds.

Virginia Miss said...

I liked the first three paragraphs and the beginning of the fourth, but yawned at "has a lot to learn," and the last sentence didn't work for me.

Miss Snark has given you some excellent advice: prune and focus on what she has to do or decide. Funnily enough, that's just what my own hook needs. :)

Good luck author.

Xiqay said...

I thought this was very well written. But I still couldn't decide if I wanted to read the story.

It just didn't sound like anything more than staying out of harm's way and then doing bad to be good.

um, just not my cup of tea.

Anonymous said...

Am I the only person who thinks that use of the term "white trash" is offensive? Yeah? Okay then.

carlynarr said...

This writing was beautiful. Maybe not technically a 'hook,' but I really didn't care-- I thought this was the best thing I've seen from the Crapometer so far. More importantly, I think it's a fantastic example of successfully focusing on a character and bringing out what makes that character intriguing, as Miss Snark has suggested to some other writers in working on their own hooks.

Well done.

HawkOwl said...

"I tried to tone down the boat and truck tech stuff in the book so I wouldn't lose non-sailing and trucking readers."

I guess you can't be all things to all people. :) If you toned the boat and truck stuff way up and lost the seventeen-year-old and the mystery, I'd be all about it. Like, write up the adventures of a sea-can. Then you still get the boats and the trucks, but I'll like your character a lot better. :)

And about a lot of your other explanations, I have to say what I said to another guy, that if people are getting the wrong impression, you wrote your hook wrong.

And as to "shy" v. "antisocial," again, I'd have been more interested had you said "antisocial."

However, if I were an agent and you sent me a query for this and you added the part about knowing lots about boats and trucks, I'd upgrade you from "hell no" to "have you got anything else I can look at?" Let me know when you write the one about the sea-can. :)

Hoyt Peterson said...

Well as one rig boyscout to another, I think you did an awesome job. I loved the writing and would read it, definately. though I haven't been inside for many a year, some times I still hear the blast and the sound of the earthquaking JAKE, it reminds me of the sound of coming home. Nice writing.

Anonymous said...

I think you'd better pitch this clearly as either YA or adult. In the crime genre, an adult book with a 17 year old heroine is difficult to sell as a first time author.

C E Grundler said...

This story is definitely more adult than YA. I realize the issue a 17-year-old heroine carries; however, I know I’m far from the first to write along adult lines with an underage protagonist. For those of you familiar with the Travis McGee books, you know Travis had a certain, somewhat skewed approach to problems, one Hazel follows as well in her own creative way. Trust me, this ain’t Nancy Drew. For those of you saying “Travis Who?” look up John D. McDonald.

As for her age and shyness, this story is the first in a series, and in this series Hazel will grow, on many levels. She may start out 17 and shy/anti-social/introverted… but change is inevitable.

C E Grundler said...

Hoyt Peterson said...
...the sound of the earthquaking JAKE,

Everyone who knows what that means, raise your hand. (Waving back to Hawkowl...)
Anyone else? How about a discussion on fuel pumps on marinized Ford Lehman diesels? These were areas I had to handle with enough care to convey Hazel's capabilities, but not lose the average reader. I could explain these things in detail, and those few of you who know would nod, because I don't have to tell you, and everyone else would skim ahead or close the book. Then again, don't ask Hazel (or me, and yes, I am a woman) anything about designer clothing labels, shoes or handbags.

HawkOwl said...

Well, I wish your book well. :) And I hope that somewhere in the series you will feature a gantry crane. :)

Convoy! Convoy! Convoy!

Anonymous said...

The image of a girl heading out to sea with the body of a stranger that attacked her hooked me. Who's the girl? Why did the stranger attack her? Why can't she go to the cops? Where are her parents in all this?
Keep that image (Hazel at the helm) at the beginning, answer the above questions in the body of your text, and I think you will improve your hook.
From the synopsis, it sounds like you have an intriguing story here. I hope to be able to find it in print one day.

~Nancy said...

I was interested when I saw where this takes place, for obvious reasons :-).

I thought the hook was pretty well done, but I think Miss Snark's suggestion is a tough but good one.

white trash, Born Agains, appliance salesmen, a suspiciously wealthy stranger and an unstable stalker

I, too, cracked up over this line; a bit of humor goes over well with me.

I don't read YA except for Harry Potter, but this sounds like a really good read.

Good luck with it!

~JerseyGirl