12.20.2006

HH Com 203 (199)

Blind since her mother's sudden death when she was a child, Emma of Gistel thinks she'll spend the rest of her days running the castle with her uncle, until her father's surprise return from crusade launches her on a journey from Flanders to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. Her father left twenty years before to expiate the crime of his wife's murder, but now he has returned with a pregnant young bride in tow, and threatens to send Emma to live in the convent where her mother is remembered as a saint. But a chance rescue in a tavern brawl of Katherine, the young sister of the count of Flanders, offers her a new opportunity.

(your hook starts here) What begins as an ordinary mission to escort her young charge, Katherine, to her prospective bridegroom, the son of the queen of Castile, turns dangerous when Katherine is captured by the queen's rival, the king of Aragon. Assisted by her traveling companions, Aimery and Oliver, two clerics with a plan to write a guidebook for the pilgrimage road to Compostela, and Yusuf ibn Cid, a mysterious messenger with an unknown agenda and ambiguous allegiances, Emma tries to rescue the girl. When their efforts end in tragedy, Emma completes her journey to Compostela and forges a new life for herself in Spain.

And there's a great dog on page one. (Killer Yapp says: finally someone who understands what a GREAT hook is--a dog)


This is a synopsis, not a hook. Start with Emma. What's her biggest problem? Leave out all these other characters except the antagonist.

You mention she's blind, but it never gets mentioned again. Does it factor into the story? Descriptives like blind, gay, dyslexic, and/or nouns like winged horses are like Chekhov's gun: mention it in the first paragraph and you'd better use it by the end of the show.

Focus.

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thanks Miss. Snark. That was helpful. My problem with this story is that, while it has thrilling elements, it isn't really a thriller, and I don't want to mislead an agent with a hook that focusses solely on the mystery and adventure.
The blindness of the heroine is a crucial part of the plot, and the final climax, not just a character marker of speshulness. I could leave it out of the hook, I suppose, but again, I fear misleading an agent.

Anonymous said...

Well, this is intruiguing on several levels, (one of the characters in mine is actually blinded during the course of my book, and I'm having fun with that, hook #430) She's going to have to overcome a lot, and much of that will be in her new surroundings. I don't know where your plot begins and ends, but, at least half of her problems probably start after he escape unless everything is just peachy once she steps foot on her new property, and that was the promised land. If that blindness is at the heart of it all, then you need to put somewhere along the way, "She overcomes blindness and this guy and that guy, tries to achieve this" Make the blindness the antagonist, because, for my character, after she's blinded, that is the antagonist.

Anonymous said...

I am not an expert, but I have some problems with your historical accuracy. First of all, you set this in the time of the Crusades, which were from 1095-1291. Then you say that someone is interested in writing a guidebook. Moveable type wasn't invented until the 15th century. There were very few books and the clergy were about the only people who could read. There were a few wealthy who could read, but people didn't move around much and didn't travel for fun and relaxation. Those who did travel, knew the trails or used a guide. Also, the medieval tolerance level for disabilities was slim to none. A blind girl running a castle and trying to rescue someone stretches my credibility too far.

Also, did you really mean that Emma's father murdered her mother, because that is what you say? Are you sure you want to use the word expiate? If he did murder his wife, then I doubt an assignment on a crusade would be considered proper expiation. It's true that some people did go on a crusade as pennance, but I think murdering your wife is a little over the top.

Sorry to be so blunt, but Snarkiness seems to rule the day here.

Anonymous said...

I am not an expert, but I have some problems with your historical accuracy. First of all, you set this in the time of the Crusades, which were from 1095-1291. Then you say that someone is interested in writing a guidebook. Moveable type wasn't invented until the 15th century. There were very few books and the clergy were about the only people who could read. There were a few wealthy who could read, but people didn't move around much and didn't travel for fun and relaxation. Those who did travel, knew the trails or used a guide. Also, the medieval tolerance level for disabilities was slim to none. A blind girl running a castle and trying to rescue someone stretches my credibility too far.

Also, did you really mean that Emma's father murdered her mother, because that is what you say? Are you sure you want to use the word expiate? If he did murder his wife, then I doubt an assignment on a crusade would be considered proper expiation. It's true that some people did go on a crusade as pennance, but I think murdering your wife is a little over the top.

Sorry to be so blunt, but Snarkiness seems to rule the day here.

cm allison said...

how does she do all this in Medieval England and Spain blind? That's really throwing me...

jamiehall said...

I felt like you had tried to put too many characters and too much detail into the hook. Save something for the synopsis.
Here are the biggest problems as I see them:
1) It is understandable that a sudden return of an absent father, (with a new pregnant wife too) would be upsetting to a daughter, but it's not really clear why this matters to the plot.
2) It is true that a blind MC is an important detail that you should mention, but the way you've put it here, it seems like an afterthought that was hastily tacked on, not an important part of the plot. You want it to feel important by mentioning it within a context that matters.
3) A bunch of characters are mentioned and then shoved aside so quickly that it almost feels like the novel is a series of short stories starring the same MC, not a novel with a single main plot arc. Leave out some of these characters, or learn to mention them in a way that shows how their plot arc fits into the main plot arc.

Anonymous said...

Hmm, is this any better? I'm trying to focus on the central issues that affect Emma and why. (I notice people haven't being "rehooking" --- apologies if this is not kosher):

Blind since childhood, the most logical place for Emma of Gistel as an adult may well be the convent where her mother is remembered as a saint, especially after her father returns home unexpectedly after twenty years with a pregnant bride in tow and wants Emma out of the castle. But after a chance encounter with Katherine, the young sister of the count of Flanders, she is offered the chance to enter the girl’s service. About to lose the only home she’s ever known, Emma pursues this opportunity, despite her fear at facing the world beyond the castle.

What begins as an ordinary mission to escort Katherine to her prospective bridegroom, the son of the queen of Castile, turns dangerous when Katherine is captured by the queen’s rival, the king of Aragon. Assisted by two clerics with a plan to write a guidebook for the pilgrimage road to Compostela, and a mysterious messenger with an unknown agenda and ambiguous allegiances, Emma tries to rescue the girl and forge a new life for herself. But can a blind woman negotiate the shoals of international politics? Emma learns there are other ways of seeing the truth than with her eyes.

cm allison said...

Author,
YES! MUCH better, now I could follow it and it all made time line and plausibility sense. NOW it is much more like something I would read prehaps on the back of a jacket and might be intriqued enough to take home, dependent on the first few pages....
(MS can't, but from me your revised is a "bingo")

jamiehall said...

The second one is much better. The only thing I tripped over this time was the use of the word "escort." It made me think that a blind woman would have a hard time "escorting" anyone. I know what you mean, but it tripped me up anyway.

Anonymous said...

On the facticity of the story:
The pilgrim's guide is actually a real text, compiled in the twelfth century. Google pilgrim's guide to Compostela and you will find many, many hits. I never said it was a printed text --- but there are many medieval manuscripts of it. The story of the mother's death and the daughter's blindness is based on a medieval saint's life. Whether it was a "true" story, I am not going to say, but it is an authentic medieval story.
I actually am an expert (sorry, there seems to be no way to say that without sounding snarky either!). This is my day job, and I enjoy to an excessive degree talking about what is based on fact in my novel, and where I have been creative.

xiqay said...

OTOH, stories on the pilgrimage road can make good reads.

Good luck.

xiqay said...

The revised version is great. Too bad Miss Snark didn't get that one.

I'd also say bingo for it.

Twill said...

You should be able to tighten up the first paragraph even further for a hook. If we're never going to see the father and his wife again, then all that matters is something like this -

"Blind since childhood, ejected from the only home she has known, Emma of Gistel may well be forced to live the rest of her life at the convent where her mother is remembered as a saint. Her only other option comes by chance - an offer to enter the service of a young lady of Flanders to escort her to her royal wedding..."

Angus Weeks said...

To the author, your revised version is much clearer - but I think Twill is right about your revised first paragraph. IMO it's still more synopsis than hook. Twill's example is definitely hook, and I'd use that.

I never understood the difference between synopsis and hook, until the crapometer.

Anonymous said...

Definitely improved the second time. Twill's idea was good too.

Anonymous said...

The second hook you posted here is a great improvement, IMO. I'm also glad that you took out reference to the tavern brawl, that sounded a bit cliche. Also, would the sister of a count be in a tavern where brawls could break out? I'm no expert either, but I don't find that likely. Overall, it sounds interesting.

Good luck!