12.21.2006

HH Com 240 (236)

My novel "Paranoid" (thriller, 100,000 words) starts out with a familiar premise: an innocent person stumbles onto a conspiracy so huge that he can't go to the police without proof. They would just assume he was insane. So he has to fight a shadowy, diabolical organization -- alone and on the run -- while the conspirators hunt him down.

It sounds like any one of a dozen thrillers, from "The Holcroft Covenant" to "Six Days of the Condor". But there’s a crucial difference: the hero of "Paranoid" really is crazy. Three quarters of the way through the book, that becomes undeniably clear. The President of the United States has not been 'replaced by an impostor'; the President's son is not the only one who can rescue the country from a Devil's bargain with the mafia. In fact, the President's son is an axis-one, clinically diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic. He also happens to be a trained soldier and martial artist, with an intimate knowledge of the life and habits of the leader of the free world.

In the other words: the perfect assassin.

For the reader, this revelation punches every expectation inside out: the hero is suddenly the villain; the sinister agents chasing him down are actually the Secret Service ... the good guys. And the final twist, revealed through a few bars of music whistled during a televised rose-garden interview with the President, is that even paranoids have real enemies.

And sometimes it takes a crazy guy to save the world.


You're all going to scream when I tell you this is a hook. It violates absolutely everything I've said up to this point.

It works because you can't write an XYZ-form hook for a novel that shifts abruptly (or even not abruptly) in the middle.

This is a hook that you can ONLY use in an agent's letter. It's obviously not going to work for flap copy.

And it works for me because one of the things I love best about Ken Follet is how he starts out with the villain as a sympathetic character and then very subtly shifts to the hero. If you haven't read Key to Rebecca, well, my sympathies. It's the best example of this I can think of. Eye of the Needle too.

The trouble is, when you have a hook like this, those first pages have to be riveting. I start out wanting to like it, but since I know this is a very difficult form to execute well, if I lose confidence you can do so I'll stop reading. I lose confidence when I see misspelled words, fragments, clunky writing.




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17 comments:

Maprilynne said...

I LOVE Ken Follett. (A very recent addiction, but very strong.:))

mutegi said...

AAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHH....

well, someone had to do it.

Bonnie Shimko said...

It hooked me!

Anonymous said...

This is a familiar premise and I would enjoy reading this. In fact, I would enjoy anything that is similar to "A Beautiful Mind" and the "Conspiracy Theory."

Author, great job and hope your dreams come true…I don’t know you but, it seems like you’re on the right road. Well Done!

ac

Hypergraphia said...

I like this idea as well!! I had to LOL at Miss Snark's comments about everyone screaming because this is a hook. I was thinking as I read this that it's not a hook, but it sure sounds like it could be riveting. I don't know another way to write a hook for this (or anything for that matter) but I would read this.

Anonymous said...

I'm beginning to suspect that the term "hook" or "textbook hook" (if there is such a thing) are just ambivilent terms for, "you better sound interesting or I'm chucking it", and that the form of said hook is irrelevant.

This sounds really intersting. Maybe the most intersting one so far IMO. Good luck with this buddy.

Anonymous said...

"Manchurian candidate" comes to mind.

Michele said...

Hmm..... I'll have to move Ken Follet up in the TBR pile

Anonymous said...

This was "wow" for me...well done!

Anonymous said...

I agree, this sounds interesting. Nay, this sounds like a bestseller, IF the author can sustain interest and tell he story as well as he/she can write a hook.

I do have to admit, though, that I have fallen under Miss Snark's evil spell, and thus a part of me was screaming "NAMELESS HERO" as I read this. However, I suppose it was the artfulness of the hook that caused me to want to know who this nutter is.

Crystal Charee said...

I'm hooked too. The problem is, since this ISN'T my genre, I probably wouldn't read it based on the back cover. I'd read it based on your hook.

tomdg said...

Yup - sounds like a great story. I liked the way conspiracy theory made it ambiguous for as long as possible as to whether he was sane or not - but this goes one better. Great!

Rei said...

Actually, I don't see a reason to scream. Seems a reasonable query for this.

Anonymous 1: I was reminded of "A Beautiful Mind" as well.

Ski said...

When I started reading this I thought - Oh man, are you gonna get hammered. But as I read further I thought this was really a clear/clean way to tell the story of this story. It had nothing overblown, it was all legit. You did good! I wish you Good Luck!

Rgds...........Ski

Demented M said...

What I liked was the focused control in the hook. I could tell the writer knew where s/he was going. As MS said, maybe this isn't the perfect format, but it didn't matter, because the control was so good--if that makes any sense.

The story itself? Probably not something I would read. But I'd go see the movie.

M

heidi said...

First paragraph is a turn-off because of the first line of the second paragraph describes exactly what I was thinking: "It sounds like any one of a dozen thrillers...". But then things change.

Different is good, and the thought that the hero really is nuts is a nice twist.

Yeah, I guess this was the best way to hook for this story and I can see why Miss Snark thought we'd all freak out. Up until now, she's suggested we need to leave some mystery and make us ask "What happens next?" But what does this one do? Instead, it explains everything. It has to. How else will it show that this book is different from all the rest?

But it doesn't give away everything. What is it about the few bars of whistled music that confirms the presence of enemies? And how does the hero save the world?

wordver: mooey, so...

Jeremy James said...

Awesome hook, whatever the "format." I'd read it in a heartbeat. Do you have a website, dear author?