12.22.2006

HH Com 335

Despite the fifteen unfinished novels on her hard drive, Iris Bell is a master of fiction. She revels in illusion –other people’s, about themselves. In fact, it’s her business. Iris ghostwrites autobiographies. A few, of minor celebrities or semi-seminal personalities, have been published by boutique firms, but most are the deathbed vanity press variety –autobiographies for clients ordering up some final meaning for their muddled lives.

As perpetual observer, Iris has never been truly embroiled in her own life. She’s had her share of pathos –wistful stories of unrequited love, dashed dreams, failed ambitions. But she simply can’t help being the omniscient narrator, too coolly self-aware to be consumed by what is always ultimately artifice.

Just when Iris believes she’s exhausted all the great themes in her own life (mid-life ennui aside), Manuel Sosa enters the scene. He’s her new Latino landscaper, and in him, Iris finds her most compelling tragic hero. Exiled from his country and family, Manuel is an ex-revolutionary who, imprisoned and tortured, nearly sacrificed his life for the most marvelously futile of causes –“freedom” in a tiny landlocked South American country notable only for the historic scope of its catastrophic wars and the brutality of its revolving-door dictatorships. Entranced by this alien world ruled by action, not perception, Iris becomes progressively entangled with Manuel and their great “worlds colliding” love story. What she doesn’t realize, however, is that she’s merely a bit player in a drama of proportions she’s yet to imagine.


This is the kind of novel that doesn't lend itself to the now cliche Template of Hook but that's exactly what you need.

You're awash in telling me about Iris and Manuel but without action, plot, conflict, it's all just contemplative navel gazing. I realize that's part of the book but here in the hook I really want to know we're not just going to sit around talking IN the novel.

On the other hand, as we all know I'd prefer to be ON fire rather than sitting in front of one.

15 comments:

writerdog said...

Mostly what I have seen is cliched, overused, redundant, aimless wandering.

No real stories here.

Just a lot of people talking about what could or should or would happen, not what is happening.

Michele said...

I loved the opening paragraph. I found that unusual and specific. However, the rest of the plot doesn't seem to follow up on those details. What I'd hope to see is:

This new love of hers inspires her to write a new novel (or revitalize one of her old unpublished novels), and she gets an offer for the novel.

This will cause problems with her Love. Perhaps he reads it and is furious that it seems to portray him ... or their relationship. She has to choose between this man and publication.

Or there might be other sorts of conflicts that can come out of their relationship and her writing.

Dave said...

Martin Amis in one of his books discusses writers who have guilt about the unreviewed manuscripte, the unsubmitted manuscript, the unfinished manuscript, the ideas in the drawer and finally, the un-thought-of and not-conceived manuscripts - all of which provide great guilt and angst.

murm said...

i agree with michelle. i found the first paragraph's character sketch really interesting & compelling. i wanted to find out what this main character would do...

oh. she "gets her groove back" with a young exotic. suddenly a lot less interesting.

i also don't like the cliche that writers are passive voyuers who write because "they just don't know how to get out there & live, dammit!"

Anonymous said...

C'mon now! You sure can write, but give us a pie in the face PLOT, willya?! The stuff that goes on between someone's ears is just boring crap - bring out dem Ninjas!

Sheesh.

Anonymous said...

RA, is this yours? Very cool signature writing. Smoothest writing of any hook so far IMO, but you'll have to reveal a little more of the dirty details. What is Iris going to have to do? Don't hold it back in your hook.

F

Anonymous said...

Is Manuel Sosa by any chance related to Kaiser Sosa from The Usual Suspects?"

No spoilers, please!

Zany Mom said...

I agree with Murm -- we writers ARE out there, living life. We're just not the ones in the center of the action all of the time, though. I'm the one in the corner taking it all in and missing nothing. ;) A people watcher. Sure, I participate, but there's more fun to be had watching the spectators, too.

Anonymous said...

This is beautiful. I would buy this, eat chocolate, take the phone off the hook, put the girls to sleep, kick dingbat out to his mothers house, and read it in the bathtub.

Maria said...

You write beautifully. I would read this.

Everyone's different and that's exactly as it should be. After reading 300 of these hooks where most people are clamouring for action, explosions and ninjas with flaming hair pieces, I'm glad to see something like this. I like stories about people and what goes on between their ears.

One of my favorite books is Michael Cunningham's The Hours. Who's the antagonist? Where's the action? How would you even go about summarizing that plot in terms of if x, then y, or else z with cause the End of the World.

tomdg said...

A small, landlocked country in South America? Paraguay? Seriously, there are only two landlocked countries I can think of in South America, and I wouldn't describe Bolivia as small. If you have a specific country in mind, name it; if not, don't make it landlocked, and consider putting it in Central America where there are lots more small countries.

Miss S's comments reminded me of this aphorism: Build a man a fire, and he will be warm for a day. Set him on fire, and he will be warm for the rest of his life.

Sorry!

Anonymous said...

I agree with tomdg: you've got to name the country. The lack of specificity in the hook makes me fear for lack of specificity in the book.

Virginia Miss said...

Sorry, author, but this did not draw me in.

However, I disagree with the commenters that a specific country needs to be named. Did anyone read Patchett's Bel Canto, a brilliant novel set in an unnamed latin american country?

Iris Bell said...

Thanks so much to all who took the time to comment. Some responses:

"Just a lot of people talking about what could or should or would happen, not what is happening."
~~ If not for the "could haves", "should haves", and "would haves", how can what actually is happening have any meaning?

"I loved the opening paragraph. I found that unusual and specific. However, the rest of the plot doesn't seem to follow up on those details."
~~ My hook failed you, Michelle, but you're dead on! This "novel", Iris Bell's first person narrative, IS the new novel inspired by Manuel. Ultimately, Manuel's "truth" about what's real and what really is fiction in their relationship both upends Iris and compels her to finish what will be her first - and last -novel.

"i also don't like the cliche that writers are passive voyuers who write because "they just don't know how to get out there & live, dammit!"
~~ Murm, I'd argue that if the examined life is the only one worth living, then writers "get out there and live" more fully than anyone. :)

"RA, is this yours? Very cool signature writing. Smoothest writing of any hook so far IMO, but you'll have to reveal a little more of the dirty details."
~~ Not, RA, but thanks for the lovely compliment anyway. I wish my "hook" was ultimately worthy of it.

"Is Manuel Sosa by any chance related to Kaiser Sosa from The Usual Suspects?"
~~ Not related, but (hopefully) just as mysterious.

"This is beautiful. I would buy this, eat chocolate, take the phone off the hook, put the girls to sleep, kick dingbat out to his mothers house, and read it in the bathtub."
~~ Marry me!

"You write beautifully. I would read this. Everyone's different and that's exactly as it should be. After reading 300 of these hooks where most people are clamouring for action, explosions and ninjas with flaming hair pieces, I'm glad to see something like this. I like stories about people and what goes on between their ears."
~~ Ditto last response.

"A small, landlocked country in South America? Paraguay? Seriously, there are only two landlocked countries I can think of in South America, and I wouldn't describe Bolivia as small. If you have a specific country in mind, name it; if not, don't make it landlocked, and consider putting it in Central America where there are lots more small countries."
~~ Not only did I name the country, it's the title of the novel - "Paraguay". Miss Snark has removed all the titles from these hooks. I wonder if the pieces would convey a better sense of the novels had she kept them in.

Lynnzer Tart said...

Without doubt a writer...intelligent, unique style would draw me into the zone and place me in an aisle of a bookstore, reading on & not realizing I'd been standing there for an hour. Wd marry you Iris (see writer's responses to blog) but I like guys...

Stay with this!!!!