Dear Miss Snark,
This wonderful excercise in creating a 250 word hook has highlighted a potential problem that may arise when I write my query. As my novel "stars" 5 family members as well as 8 other characters essential to the plot, and has a rather complex story line with multiple sub plots due to the 5 family members separating at a point, condensing the hook to something that is revealing about the manuscript's nature without the oversimplification of "1890's family is scattered and tries to reunite, some make it", while possible -- I've managed to stuff into the 250 word count with a shoehorn -- took some serious condensing and possesives. Meaning, every single "the bane of the Snark" became "the Snark's bane" and every possible link of an identifying pronoun was used. It works. I say what I need to say, but it ain't pretty.
So, in order for me to do a synopsis that would get the particulars, nicely condensed, and still show at least a little pizzaz, I'd need about 600-800 words. I can't do a hook that long since pretty much every agent wants 1 page or less and I still have to fit other pertinent info. Which leads me to my question, would you rather know the stroy in a matchbox of "resplendent, exiled, bombastic Zod's bane Jorrel's child, drove him to the humans' genocide" or would you rather see "Daddy never told Superman he pissed this guy off" in a hook?
I can do it either way. Unfortunately, once I start with one "style", I really don't have room to fit flavors of both in.
How to write a hook.
Step one: Ask the question "why would I want to read this book".
Step two: Answer the question.
Step three: Cross out "cause it's a masterpiece"; return to step one.
Step four: cross out "cause you'll love it"; return to step one
Step five: cross out "my novel stars"; return to step one
Step six: review examples of hooks posted on Happy Hooker Crapometer Blog.
Step seven: answer "why do I want to read this book" for the examples
Step eight: apply what you have learned
Step nine: take out anything remotely resembling a synopsis.
Step ten: see step one
PS This stuff is a lot harder than I make it sound. Writing a good hook can take weeks, if not a month. I work on my cover letters for projects I take on for weeks. And I revise like crazy after I pitch it a couple times. There's a reason we've got so much run up time before the Happy Hooker CoM.