HHCom 19


A grocery sack lay on its side near the open front door. I picked it up the and entered the hall. My mother was on the phone in the kitchen.
"I see," Mom said. "My husband is out of the country on business. Catherine and I will have to make those decisions." She paused. "She’s is only sixteen." Mom paused again. "When is the funeral?"
I ran the rest of the way to the kitchen. Heart racing, I plopped the sack on the counter, stepped close to my mother, and whispered, "Who is that? What happened? Who died?"
Mom put a finger to her lips and jotted a number on the pad of paper by the phone. "Thank you very much," she said into the receiver. "I'll call you as soon as I talk to her."
“Who was that?” I asked again as Mom hung up.
She stared at me with a stunned expression. "A lawyer in Louisiana. He said your grandmother died last week and left her house to you."
"My grandmother? Not your mother?”
Mom shook her head and sat down at the table. "I don't understand it either.
We were used to secrets and half-truths and out-and-out lies. My father worked for the CIA. But this was too up close and personal, and upsetting. All my life Dad had told me that both of his parents died before I was born.

This isn't a hook, it's the opening of the story. On the other hand, it's not a bunch of blatherous description. A hook is not the first page of the novel. It's the enticement on the book jacket.

The reason you need something OTHER than a first page for your hook is that many of you are going to be querying people who ONLY want a query letter (mystifying to Miss Snark, but true) and not a writing sample. They're going to look at your LETTER not the first page. You have to be able to describe the book without being the book.

I didn't want to limit you on the Crapometer by saying you can't send first pages, but really, you can't send just the first page to an agent in place of a query letter with a good hook.


Anonymous said...

This may not be a hook in Miss Snark's view, but I want to keep reading this story. (So I'm hooked.)

Anonymous said...

Deconstruction time:

Why's the bag dropped and the door open? It seems the author is implying that the mother had a severely averse reaction to simply hearing the phone ring from outside the house.

A Paperback Writer said...

I was rather disappointed to stop reading as well.

HawkOwl said...

Anything with Louisiana could be cool. Anything with teenagers, very likely isn't. Pass.

I wonder if the people of Louisiana mind being typecast like this.

Anonymous said...

Wow when my grandma died I cried and she didn't leave me anything.

Anonymous said...

"She's is only sixteen"...just for future submissions you might want to fix that.

Anonymous said...

I think this would work if I knew a bit more...I see gaps to answers I form when reading it...its not bad though. I just don't understand it.

Benja Fallenstein said...

I can see Miss Snark's point of view. I can also see why you thought it would pass as a hook. (I'm assuming you didn't realize Miss Snark was talking about query letters, though -- I don't think anybody would imagine it would be ok to just stick the beginning in the query letter :-))

Be that as it may, this is good. If I found this in a bookstore, I'd read on and expect a book I'm going to like. If I found something like this in the slushpile, I'd read on with high hopes. (I'm not an agent -- I read slush for a magazine, and in a different genre, but I'm assuming the experiences are sufficiently similar.)

All the best with this project. I hope to read the book some day.

All the best,
- Benja

(Well -- come to think of it -- if you think you'd like to get a critique from me, feel free to drop me an e-mail at benja.fallenstein@gmail.com :-))

Anonymous said...

What is so "up close and personal" about it, as compared to anything else? The narrator is making big leaps of logic which don't make sense to anyone lacking her knowledge and insight - i.e. everyone.

I agree about the sack (what is a "grocery sack", anyway?? a plastic bag? Why hasn't it blown away yet - even without wind, they do do that) and the open front door, it seems to be trying to set up an atmosphere of suspense but is just confusing.

The problem with sending a sample of your writing for a hook/critique, is that it's going to be critiqued before you've even had a chance to tell us what the story's even about. That's not doing yourself any favours.