12.23.2006

crapometer status

still alive!
sometimes that's the best measure of a day here at Snark Central!

We're done for the day.
Killer Yapp has expressed an interest in seeing if reindeer really know how to fly so we're off to the petting zoo.

HH Com 400

Iowan Marnie Miller came to L.A. to write (and, okay, maybe to escape ridicule for being named for her town's first organic dairy cow.) So what if her first paid job is penning the Web site musings of C-list sci-fi star Hill Valley, a ditsy, implant-laden narcissist who loses publicists faster than she can lob bottles of Fiji Water at them?

Soon Marnie's embroiled in a love triangle -- or maybe a square – with ultra-talented young director Aaron Rook; rugged and finally back on his game actor Brayden Geneseo and a mystery fan, who might really be wooing Hill – and her vinyl spacesuit.

What Marnie saw as a first writing job now has Hill Valley in competition for Celebrity of the Year, not to mention heartbroken, drunk and sleeping on Marnie's couch. All's fair in love and war – so why's Hollywood exempt?


too many people, too many little clever phrases, you're awash in cute and you've missed telling me much about anything.

"all's fair in love and war"??? surely we can think of a better way to describe a dilemma.

HH Com 399

Suffocating in an oversized trash bag, Prue awakes, hysterical and confused, among piles of junk. A discovered typewriter offers her company as she escapes this dump and sets out on an unknown journey to uncover why she ended up in trash yard and more importantly, why her mind remains more or less a blank.

Although young and out seeking truths, Prue's story is no bildungsroman. As she and her typewriter move through the distant and disjointed world that has spurned them, she becomes more and more disaffected, finding solace only at the shoreline of the ocean also forgotten by this world and with her clunky, broken typewriter, who although only a machine, offers her more companionship than anyone else. She thus decides to focus on the easier task of fixing her trusty, little typewriter, without realizing that this simple decision will have such serious repercussions, unwittingly guiding her to self-discovery and yielding an answer, perhaps one that's haunted her all along, but not the one she wants. What's Prue, this lone girl who clings to a clunky machine like her lifeblood, to do? Follow her and her travails across a desiccated landscape in A GIRL, A TYPEWRITER, A DYSTOPIA, a novel of 51,000 words, to find out.

or you could just watch this

HH Com 398

Stella McKinney reached for the double-chocolate ice cream cone that the sour-faced kid handed over the counter. But instead of enjoying the anticipated treat, in the next instant she is thrown into a double-dose of murder. And her choice in dessert marks her as the number one suspect.

With nothing but her driver’s license, a few coins left in the bottom of her purse and a stolen car, Stella escapes the scene of the crime. Her survival is not only threatened by the authorities, but by a seemingly invisible and persistent evil presence. With no other choice, she seeks protection in a place where no one should be trusted. There, she hopes she’s found an unexpected ally. But her freedom rides on her ability to convince the world that she’s innocent.


Unfortunately, she’s got to convince herself first.


You need some specifics. This is a description of your idea.

HH Com 397

Aurelius is the only living son of Arthur and Guinevere, born after his father’s death in Camlann, and raised in a monastery, unknown to all in Britain. He knows nothing of the life of the court and even less of the life of a warrior. An aging Lancelot has been called to train him—his mother’s dying wish.

But Aurelius cannot use the sword, is terrified of horses, and wants only to escape his father’s name and the burden it places on his future. Lancelot is killed because of his (whose??) cowardice and Aurelius and the girl he loves, Iseult, are enslaved by Irish raiders. Iseult is raped, and when he kills the rapist in a berserker rage, Aurelius becomes a hunted fugitive.

In this final extremity, Aurelius allows his natural talent for leadership to emerge. He finds a group of bandits, all British slaves, who begin to depend on him. Then the group grows, and soon Aurelius is conspiring in a massive slave rebellion. He saves hundreds, and returns to Britain on a ship, ready at last to become High King of Britain.

At the end of this first book, he writes of himself, “I am Aurelius Ambrosius. The words mean eternal golden one. I am neither. I am the son of Arthur, my life taken from the first moment of my breath, by expectations, by fortune tellers and soothsayers, by gods and magic, by my father’s ghost. Free will, the bishop promised me. But I have never been free.”


There's nothing new here. You need something to hook my interest beyond "Arthur's unknown son". That's just a gimmick to launch the novel. You actually have to write something that brings fresh perspective to this old as the hills story.

HH Com 396

Image is everything in the political world of Washington, DC. A quick wit, a silver tongue, and
flexible morals will shoot you straight to the top. 300 lbs. of extra flesh on a medium build will ensure that you linger at the bottom. Add a bit of depression and you have the recipe for Augustine Princeton’s life.

Augustine, a more than full-figured lobbyist, is reeling from a recent divorce stemming from her husband’s affair when she learns that her obese mother has died because she ate herself to death. As she struggles with her grief, promising clients reject her because she doesn’t fit their corporate image. Then Augustine suffers a minor fall in the office, leaving her both humiliated and physically incapacitated. She decides losing weight could make life better and has gastric bypass surgery.

A year passes and (your hook starts here --->) Augustine has gone from being a bottom dweller to the crème de la crème. New clothes are in order and a new man is on the horizon. Things appear to be on track. Only life is not as wonderful as it seems. As her size decreases, her emotional void increases. The strict diet does nothing to kill the candy-craving monster that lives within her. And her fairy tale romance quickly transforms into a tawdry affair. Skinny is not better.

In an age where we all look for quick fixes to our problems, Augustine learns that losing physical weight is not as important as getting rid of emotional baggage.

This isn't a hook.
This is a description of your idea.

You've got two dimensional characters here and very very platitude driven plot.

HH Com 395

Political candidates wanted: ambition and ego required; integrity optional. John “Pepper” Papparelli hangs his consulting shingle in the city of Grand River and finds himself inundated by his clients’ indiscretions, crimes and just plain stupidity as he guides three campaigns towards Election Day.

“All Politics is Local” follows Pepper in his foray into public affairs. If he wins, he opens the door to bigger and more lucrative campaigns. The wisecracking, low-key Pepper clashes with a cast of egocentric office seekers and their flunkies during the aptly named “silly season.” He survives, succeeds and is poised to achieve his goals, only to face a new dilemma that forces him to weigh his ambitions against his personal ethics.

Pepper’s candidates think big, but their actions show why they remain small-time:

Bumbling Bob George wants to be mayor, but his laughable judgment, penchant for malaprops (That’s the last Sebastian!) and a committee of wanna-be politicos consistently frustrate his intentions.

Council hopeful Val Lopez is secretive and controlling. With his deep-pocketed associates he disregards campaign ethics to wage war against his opponent.

Richard Reimer has AIDS. He faces a death sentence and decides to unburden his soul by doing something unheard of in politics – reveal the truth – about himself and his corrupt opponents in the election.

Pepper also becomes involved with two women, the apolitical Sharon O’Malley and the mysterious Rachel Wellington. While he educates them about the inner workings of politics, they help him learn more about himself.


This isn't a hook, it's a list of characters.
And why would anyone read this. We have the New York Times for all the hilarity about politicos we need.

HH Com 394

I said unto you when you were in your own blood, Live.

Emily McPherson was special. She had been swept up from the meaningless wasteland of nothingness by the Ultimate Authority, and had been taken into His very bosom. But Emily couldn’t be content just looking down upon her fellow discarded souls. She had a longing to go to them – to help them – to do something – anything. The problem was; what could she do? She was only a teen, and alone: And that world down there. It was full of Scrogens: Horrible death-dealing Scrogens.

Justin St. Clair had found the love of his life, he was certain of it. Everything about Emily cried out for him to take her in his arms and love her. She awoke passions in him that hadn’t been stirred since the realization that his sixteenth birthday, his age of un-accountability, was fast approaching and the man that he had been was tracking fast back into adolescence. Could he bear to let her track on into adulthood without him? Was he willing to fast track so that he could reverse the regression, at least for a little while? But the cost; was he willing to pay the cost? To fast track would send him on to end track: Bag and tag and he was done. Was it worth it – One lifetime instead of countless others? And if he chose to continue on his track’s natural course, could he protect his beloved from THE BACK TRACK CONSPIRACIES?


Here, have some pruning shears.
Now go read the post on XYX.
Start over.
And for dog's sake think of something other than "scrogens" to use as a name.
I'm not sure this even reaches the standard of mess.

HH Com 393

In the Shadow of the Mountain is a young adult science fiction novel.

The Kalegi are a dying race, on the verge of being obliterated by their own land. Only one village survives. Refugees from the volcanic eruption that destroyed the Kalegi city took shelter among a religious sect that abandoned the city, believing its technology offended the gods of the volcano.

Imeg's parents are the children of refugees. They've earned a respected place for themselves in the village, despite holding on to many of the old ways. Coming of age, Imeg struggles to do the same, unaware of the history and political undercurrents that complicate his task. Then signs appear that the mountain will soon erupt again, and Imeg must persuade the villagers to save themselves as the village priest blames his family for angering the gods.

Centuries later, almost all trace of the Kalegi is gone. Maelene, a fourteen-year-old human raised in space, is stranded in a mining colony at the base of the same volcano when her parents die. She stumbles, quite literally, onto Imeg's story, preserved through the years. Distracted by grief, overprotective foster parents, culture shock, and the effects of her encounter with the alien recording technology, Maelene must find her own place before she can understand that Imeg's warning still applies in her time.


The volcano is going to erupt again?
Gosh, didn't see that one coming.

You're awash in generalities here.
And how are you going to deal with the segue between the first and second story? Which is the main one? Are they equal. Neither seems very vivid right now.

HH 392

On an alternate world, the slave Sachi prays to her goddess for a husband. The fallen angel, empathizing with the young urine collector's dismal future, hopes the High God won't notice a little karmic interference and heads for Earth.

The ruling witches of Sachi's world only want to rid themselves of the injured stranger dumped onto their sacred beach--one whose dark skin looks disturbingly similar to the monsters encamped outside the city walls. However, with their society's future in doubt, they fear angering the High God with an unjustified execution. Assuming he's an agent of evil, they assign their least-valuable slave to attend to his needs and wait for the excuse necessary to dispose of him.

Recently divorced from the woman who trashed his life and left him living in his truck, Matthew soon decides this reality is as good as any. But he discovers that making the pretty cell-mate his wife requires battling his love's owners and winning the trust of the witches by finding a way to defeat the monsters.

Then Sachi reveals the reason these people can't evolve out of the Bronze Age. And why the men on this world are more than content to let their women run everything. It makes the other challenges look easy.


Too many people/gods/demons...characters. Focus.
This is a mess.

HH Com 391

What do you do when you've spent your entire life in an ivory tower--literally? Princess Arabella was locked in a tower to protect her from a mysterious curse put on her when she was a baby. Her only relief from boredom is a book of fairy tales, which contains useful pieces of information such as how to use your hair to escape from a high tower. Arabella is tired of waiting for her prince to come, so she cuts her hair, escapes, and sets out to find the evil fairy who cursed her.

Relying heavily on her book of fairy tales, and accompanied by her tamed crow, Arabella discovers that to break her curse she must first find the Fountain of Truth. But relying on fairy tales can lead you into trouble, and her book offers her no help when she is trapped by a
persistent prince who follows the rules of fairy tales even more meticulously than Arabella does. Before she can finish her quest, Arabella must discover that some answers just cannot be found in books...

This reminds me of one of those cliffhangers from the 20s. "Miss Arabella is trapped in an ivory tower; there's no chance for escape"...tune in tommorrow! followed by "As Miss Arabella turned her back on the iveroy tower after her escape"...and we're left dangling with disappointment about how the escape happened.

Your hook starts with the escape. And we need to know who locked her in, and wha the curse is.

there've been a lot of these fractured fairy tales coming in since Wicked made a mint so you're going to have to do something really spectacular to get my attention.

HH Com 390

Olivia is arrested after having been found trespassing on the alien overlord's land. She soon finds herself in a sadistic prison run by demented guards and occupied by even crazier prisoners. At first, those things seem bad enough, but then she soon learns the true horror of the prison: a sentient, mind-controlling metal which attaches itself to her body; and slowly begins to take over her mind and soul.

Will Olivia find herself strong enough to combat the physical and mental hardships she now finds herself faced with? Or will she just give herself up to the darkness? In the dark, all are equal.

She's becoming one withe the Borg? I hear resistance is futile.

You need to give us a better sense of the plot and the actual antagonist. Is it "the metal"? Does it arrive playing Twisted Sister at full volume?

Get all your elements out on the table: xy and z. Then start again.

HH Com 389

“There is no reason why good cannot triumph as often as evil. The triumph of anything is a matter of organisation. If there are such things as angels, hope that they are organised along the lines of the Mafia.” – Kurt Vonnegut

(i've ranted long and hard about not putting quotes in your queries. this is the exception to the rule because it sets up the FIRST sentence of the query directly)

When angels visit Tony Vidmar, he’s left with severe bruising and the distinct impression that they aren’t happy with his business partner.

But his partner is dead – has been for years. Tony gets his instructions, and his pay cheques, from a medium who is only in occasional contact with the former construction boss.

Building a new brewery in a small town isn’t easy. Negotiating the labyrinth of local government regulations, contractor kickbacks and labour hire problems is difficult enough, but the surprisingly violent interest from the Righteous Messengers of the Lord is more than Tony can handle.

Tony’s on a tight deadline, and the brewery has to be up and running by Easter. But in the face of divine opposition, his contacts are suddenly unhelpful, his workers demand more money and the medium goes to ground. And Tony hasn’t been told to shut down the project – only to stop his partner doing whatever it is that’s annoying the hosts of Michael.

If only he could work out what it is.

oh yea, this works. big time.

It's funny, it's mordant, it's absolutely not the correct form, but it's vivid. I'd be an idiot not to read on. And I'm only an idiot three days a week.

HH 388

These three might be lesbians, but he didn't think so. They weren't standing close together enough. He'd never made a study of such things, but the three of them were standing with their arms folded so as not to touch each other; that didn't strike him as lesbian-like. The pretty one on the left had long hair, pulled back in a ponytail, smooth and golden brown, like a dark coffee, mixed half-and-half with rich cream. Unless it was just that young hair is better than old
hair, she must use some of the special hair junk that his wife filled their bathroom with. If his wife could get hair like that from a bottle, he'd gladly give up even more of the shelf space.
She wore the same outfit as the older protesters, but her jeans were more carefully ragged looking, and her T-shirt was new. It had three letters across the front, "WVA". Was that her university, or some other protest thing? The W and the A each curved across the sides of
her breasts, and the V between gave the impression of a deep cleavage. Her breasts were not really all that large, but the T-shirt was fairly tight, and the V made her look quite nicely endowed.

A tap on the truck window brought him back to himself. The inspector was standing with his clipboard, grinning at him. Carlos blushed furiously. He'd been caught staring at a girl that was easily young enough to be his daughter.


This isn't a hook. This is a first page.

I've mentioned why a first page isn't a hook, and why you need a hook in earlier posts.

HH Com 387

Sarah Richards escaped the stifling confines of blue-collar Munston, Massachusetts long ago for a better life in sophisticated New York with her husband Jack. But when her first child is born, the jarring transition from "me" to "mommy" leaves her struggling to relate to her husband and to define herself without the career she reluctantly abandoned.

Watching her daughter Sarah become a mother, Margaret recalls her own days with newborn Sarah and the years that have passed her by, like pages of a magazine carelessly leafed through and discarded. Nearing retirement age, she continues to work her assembly-line job, having become neither the full-time mother she'd expected to be, nor the actress she'd secretly dreamed of being.

When Margaret comes for a week-long visit to help with the baby, the women find themselves re-evaluating the choices they've made in life. Through memories and conversation, Margaret and Sarah expose their history and the ambitions and generational norms that have shaped them. Ultimately, they face the emotional gulf that has grown between them and help one another find new paths to fulfillment.

Told through the alternating viewpoints of the women during a pivotal week in their lives, Painted Wings presents the mother-child bond from both sides, while also telling the individual stories of the women: what they hoped for in life versus what they got.

That's it?
They sit around talking about their lives/choices/regrets??

Dear dog in heaven...no. no. no.

There are no stakes here.
There's not a hint of conflict.
There's nothing other than the usual girlie chat at the local SudsyDudsy Laundry and Hooch Parlor.

Yuck. Don't worry about the hook. Worry about the book.

HH Com 386

Please consider my science fiction novella, Patient Gamma, for publication in your magazine, Killer Yap's World of the Future. (Killer Yapp's view of the future is called "Saveur")

Patient Gamma awakens in a morgue, trapped in a body bag, with no memory of how she got there or even who she is. She escapes to find herself hunted by a gang who works for the corporation that used her body for illegal cybernetic research.

(this is backstory)
Patient Gamma was an unremarkable college student whose easy middle class life changed irrevocably when a car smashed into hers, killing her mother and landing her in a hospital. Unfortunately, the hospital is owned by the Smith-Okamoto medical firm, which deals heavily in cybernetic research. While she is in a comatose state, tests are performed that show she is an ideal candidate for implants. She is reported dead, but actually sent to their illegal cybernetic branch where her memories are blocked and she undergoes dangerous cybernetics implantation procedures. A doctor, with moral reservations about his job, drugs her into a state that mimics death and places her in the morgue, telling his superiors that she died. The story begins as she wakes up and escapes the confines of the institution. But the Smith-Okamoto Corporation is not willing to let their asset get away so easily.

so what?

She has to find out what happened and why. She has to find out who's after her. She has to find out who she is. And if she doesn't what then? She's got no memory of a previous life right?
What effect do the implants have? Do they make her better/faster/stronger, or do they make her bark like a poodle at squirrels?

You need more AND less here..a nice trick.


HH Com 385

When Solomon Stephens finds a timeworn family Bible hidden in his daughter’s closet, he realizes she has been carrying on his family's dangerous but long forgotten practice of folk healing. Now, as treatments fail to combat the lethal disease Natalie inherited from a neighbor, Solomon’s last hope is to travel to a nursing home in Chillicothe, Ohio. There he finds 120-year-old Rose Wesley. Near death herself, she reveals the secrets contained within the centuries old book. But it’s still not enough. The young widower, wounded by tragedy, loved ones, and the church, can’t heal his dying daughter until he first heals himself.

This is a description of the plot.
Since, cruelly, I don't care about any of these people, I mutter "so what" and send it back to you.

Bring us into the character's lives: Solomon Stephens discovers his daugher BadGirl has been been practing folk healing. Her failute to cure a lethal disease means...what? Are the villagers going to stone her? burn down the house? put her/him/you on JackKevorkian's mailing list?

and what does "wounded by tragedy, loved ones, and the church" have to do with any of this??

HH Com 384

Alley Cattan mugs into the bathroom mirror. He’s been perfecting that look – the loyal husband, sincere, a simple man overwhelmed by lofty justice – since the night his wife, Bernice, was arrested for murder. Today he will testify at Bernice’s trial. A smirk curls his lip.

Some say Alley has no conscience. That’s just jealousy talking. He has one. He just doesn’t check on it much. Alley has pedestrian good looks and small-time charisma, but he’s a big-time charmer, a disarmer who can hold a room. He sees himself as the perfect blend to take on Hollywood a la 1950.

your hook starts here
A screenwriter with more ambition than credits, Alley saw his chances hitting a snag in the demanding shape of Lovie Dietrich, the gossip columnist. Now he is free of that hag. He hadn't expected Bernice to be charged, but he’s sure she will be acquitted. And he will have gotten away with murder.(and ends here)


But Alley's footing is about to start quaking. While it heaves and yaws, we’ll see what in a man yields a smirk while he’s gambling with his wife's life.


SELFISH/SELFLESS, a novel of 100,000 words, tracks Alley from Brooklyn to Burma to golden-age Hollywood, where the players and intrigue might be beyond him. Or maybe not.


use that middle paragraph as your starting point for a hook that gives us a sense of actual events and the stakes.

HH Com 383

The greatest concert of all time is coming up, but most people on earth don't even know about it. The organizers have never met life forms like earthlings, and don't know how to go about publicizing the event. They elect an intergalactic committee to design an advertising campaign that will take Earth by storm.

Isilgon Trumpeter and Bandi Footflower are the two best artists in the known universe, and they are both on the committee. But they also hate each other, ever since Isilgon broke Bandi's favorite photon-brush while trying to paint a portrait of the Queen of Tachyon.

Will the two great artists be able to overcome their galactic-sized differences to come up with a mesmerizing ad campaign? Will the people of Earth realize that the greatest concert of all time is coming to town? And the greatest question of them all: what makes this concert the greatest one of all time?

Well, cause it's Elvis of course.
Sheesh.

This is just the kind of off beat whacko stuff that, done right, is hilarious. Done wrong it's painful.

HH Com 382

Newly licensed Private Investigator Rod Nobel is obsessed with the truth. Accepting a case to find a lawyer’s client, the truth is, the client doesn’t exist. Charlotte McNabb is running for her life, the truth is, she doesn’t know who’s chasing her or why. Emerged into the world of intellectual property crime, the truth is, when big money is involved, intimidation, kidnapping, and murder are not out of the question. From Portland to the Oregon coast, through deception and lies, Nobel searches for the truth with little to fine, even in his own home. ‘Heart of Lies’ is a ninety thousand word novel.

WTF????

HH Com 381

Fresh from his dreaded thirty-fifth birthday (duly celebrated with Hostess cupcake and deli takeout), Tom Henderson is lamenting his latest feeble attempt to turn his life around when he notices a major change: a snarky voice in his head claiming to be a character from a favorite Beatles song. The Nowhere Man.

Henderson needs a good shaking up. From his dead-end job in a Baltimore mail room, he's watched the clock run out on his ejection from pop culture's prime demographic. His girlfriend breaks up with him before he can scrape up the initiative first. And now the Nowhere Man has Henderson so obsessed with his bullying ex-boss, the ursine, foul-mouthed Sal Stern--the man who put him in the mail room--that he's fantasizing about murder.

As Henderson's self-esteem deficit metastasizes toward full-blown psychosis, his easygoing best friend Dave and clowning co-worker Charlie can't snap him out of it. The Nowhere Man spoils both a pilgrimage to Henderson's idyllic college campus and a Thanksgiving trip home, turning them strange and unsettling. All the while, Henderson's hatred of Stern grows ever more intense and toxic, and when Stern's wife lands in the intensive care unit, Henderson wonders if he's entered the Twilight Zone. After a dark night of the soul that involves
"Harold and Maude," $600 in parking tickets and way too much Molson ale, Henderson confronts his demons, both internal (The Nowhere Man) and external (Stern).


He has voices in his head?
Voices that are actual characters in the book?
well, ok I guess.

Now let's figure out the antagonist, and the conflict and the stakes.

You never ever want to use "dark night of the soul" to describe the climax of a novel. It's beyond trite.

HH Com 380

Friends at Michael Mohr's wake chitchat about the bitter rivalries in Silicon Valley, IPOs, absent friends, and two men, old friends of Michael's, who also died recently.

Cassandra (Case) Andrews is shaken to hear the news.

Michael and both men hiked every summer with Barry, her late husband. They were all on the Long Hike, an annual hike into the Sierra's Desolation Wilderness, with Barry the summer before last when he died.

Of the twelve people on that hike, four are dead. That Cassandra knows of.

Investigators told her Barry became dehydrated and lost his balance, falling into a ravine. No one had seen him fall. Police investigating Michael's solo car accident seem intent on blaming it on drugs or booze, even though Michael recently earned his twelve-month AA pin. Troy died in a house fire. Glenn died in a boating accident.

Or did they? No one witnessed any of the deaths.

Cassandra is the go-to Web sleuth for Silicon Valley movers-and-shakers and their companies. Convinced something is amiss, she decides to tap into the Web and use her connections to track down the truth, to either confirm the deaths were accidents or find who is responsible.

Is she just imagining things or is there a killer loose? Could the killer be a friend, part of their circle?

Someone is not happy with her new project. Someone is determined to stop her sleuthing, even if that means Cassandra must be the fifth friend to die.


This is just a setup for the novel. It's backstory. There's no antagonist. No stakes.

HH Com 379

"General Relativity and Other Works of Fiction" is a collection of short stories weighing in at about 55,000 words. It's a tough genre, I know, but one doesn't choose one's muse.

Here goes:

One morning, after troubled dreams, Jay S. wakes up to find an eerie change in the world around him: words and things are strangely entwined. He sits on a plane reading a book about an air disaster, and the next thing he knows the aircraft on which he is a passenger nose-dives in an air pocket. Next, events he witnesses around him appear to be doubled in the magazines, ads, or menus he reads -- all with increasing frequency. Books, bombs, Muzak, and Moby Dick converge in ways that defys the laws of physics, and that nevertheless begin to make senseŠ somehow. Jay's job is to figure it all out.

"General Relativity" is the first in a series of interrelated short stories in which various narrators tell of the mysterious underside of modern urban life, where memory and perception can warp our well-ordered existence. Power outages, scorpions, and various small enigmas tear at the smooth surface of the everyday, and in the seven stories of "General Relativity and Other Works of Fiction" we rediscover the elemental tensions and forces that seep through the fabric of so-called civilized living.

Looking forward to your input; masochistic writers everywhere thank you.

oh boy. no way to write a hook for a group of short stories. It simply can't be done.

what you can do is hook me with your voice: sentences, or paragraphs from the story.

Publishing credits are going to be your saviour. If you've got some, I'll probably read one oof the stories. If you don't I'll glance at it with the idea I'm going to say no.

Very tough indeed, she says sadistically.

HH Com 378

A magical mystery tour: that's how Gail Sheridan remembers her early childhood--the years immortalized in her father's best-selling children's books, the years before he stopped loving her. And that's how she remembers the year with her first love, Johnny, the lead singer of the last great sixties band, Dropping Slow.

Hours after she walked out on Johnny--after drawing the line against the no-limits sex and drugs so prevalent in the rock and roll world of the sixties--her estranged father unexpectedly died. Twenty years later he crashes into her present in the form of a recently discovered note and six stunning illustrations that will set their long-overdue reconciliation in motion.

Using the illustrations to piece together the tragic family secret that turned her father against her, Gail returns to her childhood home. The cross-country trip expands to include a reunion with Johnny that forces her to choose between the love she so desperately wants and her growing sense of independence. Her decision--and Johnny's reaction--collide with the heartbreaking revelations from her childhood and culminate in a confrontation high on a Sierra trail. Gail must face her father's anger--and her own--and learn that betrayal and grief and love are not mutually exclusive.

This is a sort of synopsis.
It's not a hook.

Start with the discovery of the drawings, that's the most compelling thing. All that backstory gets in the way of being focused and specific.

HH Com 377

Rachel Christensen is a new member of the Damsels in Distress, an elite group of women who have dedicated their lives to the training of heros; through the art of self endangerment. She trained for years on Earth, before being sent to Alern, a world just beginning its age of legends. Rachel disguises herself as one of Queen Amelia of Talera’s handmaidens in order to be close to her potential hero, prince Cedric. He is a charming, handsome man who is incapable of committing to any one lady.

Rachel allows herself to be caught by bandits to test Cedric’s fighting abilities, and ends up saving his life instead. She attempts to teach him humility by ignoring him, but he mistakes her intent and convinces himself that it is a clever ploy to get his attention. The most imperfect handmaidens begin to disappear, ensuring the most beautiful and talented bride for the prince.

Rachel believes she may be the next victim.

Her stitching is atrocious, she is far from docile, and she isn’t afraid to tell the prince what she thinks of him. She also fears that Cedric himself may be behind the disappearances, and that her training may have made him a more dangerous man. With her life at risk, Rachel begins to wonder if there is true wisdom in entering the dragon’s lair on purpose, instead of by accident.

Well, this is a fun idea but you need to sharpen the focus more. I'd want to see more about Cedric and what happens if he turns out to be non-heroic? Does she lose her merit badge.

Is there any reason this has to be on a different planet suddenly? Maybe Superman was trained by a DiD.

HH Com 376

In the past year, Jazz Stephenson's lost her eye, her job, and her Canadian status. She's had to move home to Nassau, Bahamas, to live with her father and to resume her old position at a local paper, working for a woman she hates. The only thing that keeps her sane is the renovation of her grandmother's house in the historic part of town. But when Haitian labourers begin to die on her work site, Jazz faces bankruptcy, arrest, and death — and not necessarily in that order. Can her new affiliation with Trim Romer, a member of the construction crew, help or hurt? Were the labourers killed because they knew too much about the smuggling of humans through Bahamian waters? What’s the significance of the vodou symbols that appear in the belongings of the dead men? And can Jazz find the answers before she loses everything?


I'd be much more interested if I knew more about "smuggling of humans". Is everyone in Bahamian waters non-human? or do you perhaps mean getting people into a country without all the boring paperwork?

And any man named Trim...well, sorry, but I'm laughing my head off at that one.

Your best line is: Jazz faces bankruptcy, arrest, and death — and not necessarily in that order.
It reflects a sense of humor I always look for in books.

HH Com 375

September Adams is an up and coming lawyer, a black belt, a failed murderer, and a two-timing slut. That is, at least, what her mother-in-law thinks. As for September's abusive husband, he doesn't have much to say at all in the catatonic state she put him in. That's where the failed murder came in. Apparently the cliff wasn't high enough.

A kind, gentle police officer has taught her to love in a way she never has. In his arms, she felt safe. For a second, she could almost believe everything would work out. But by some strange, cruel twist, fate gives Terrance, her husband, a second chance at life. He isn't going to use it working for charity.

He is quickly consumed by an obsession with the one woman he could never break. Pursued by him, September's life hurtles on. A young girl with haunting eyes and a broken nose needs her. For this girl, September will have to confront her own monsters before she confronts one in court. One by one, those dearest to her are picked off, stripping her bare. Soon, all she is left with is her lover who adores her more than anything and her husband who wants her— dead.


This is the weirdest assortment of intersting and bad writing I've seen in a while.

this is interesting: As for September's abusive husband, he doesn't have much to say at all in the catatonic state she put him in. That's where the failed murder came in. Apparently the cliff wasn't high enough.

this is crap: A kind, gentle police officer has taught her to love in a way she never has.
as is this: September's life hurtles on.
and this: by some strange, cruel twist, fate

Speicifics will help. Pruning out all the cliches will help.

You've got the basics of a stalker story here so you're going to need some new elements to rescue this from "seen too much of this already".

This has promise but it's not close to ready.

HH Com 374

For half-a-decade, Dost Mohammed has kept a secret buried in his heart, about a sin he committed in 1947, when tribesmen from the Northwest Frontier Province lay siege to Kashmir, a beautiful valley sandwiched between India and Pakistan. Almost sixty years later, his grandson gets a chance to redeem that sin. Will he become the 'last man' from Kashmir, in fulfillment of a 1947 prophesy? The Last Man From Kashmir is an intriguing tale of love, jealousy and hatred that spans three generations.

this isn't a hook, it's a short description.

Half a decade is five years, making Dost Mohammed's time frame 1952. You probably mean half a century -50 years. And I know where Kashmir is, and even if I didn't you don't need to tell me in a hook.

Start over.

HH Com 373

When a submarine sinks during its shakedown cruise, those aboard must face their own mortality. Seaman Noah Andrews isn’t ready to die. At age 26, he thought he’d have decades to achieve his dream of artistic success.

Trapped in the aft compartment, Noah and the other passengers huddle together in the dark and cold. While the brass work to raise the vessel, they spin stories to while away the time.

As in the Canterbury Tales, these modern voyagers reveal more about themselves with their tales than they realize. Each story plays off the one before, leads up to the one that follows, and reveals the inner workings of each soul facing its own demise.

Ashore, Commander Wolfson faces his own death. Diagnosed with terminal cancer, he realizes his life is in shambles. Health gone, marriage a facade, and career now tarnished by the sinking of the USS Manhattan.

Commander Wolfson fights to raise the sub and learn why she sank. The incident was blamed on a faulty seal, but new evidence points towards sabotage.

Aboard the sub, Noah listens intently to the stories of each of his fellow travelers. He uncovers evidence that one sailor might be the enemy within. A suicide bomber, using a nuclear submarine as his delivery vessel.

Separated by three hundred vertical feet of ocean, Commander Wolfson and Noah must each do his part to rescue the ship.


I'm fascinated by submarine rescue stuff. Sometime back I recall a Russian sub went down and there were thought to be survivors. They got a rescue vessel down to the sub, but couldn't get the door open. As anyone familiar with underwater stuff knows, those guys IN the sub (if they were alive) could hear the proximity of the rescue team, all the while their oxygen is running out. Talk about agony.

I'd read this for that reason alone, but this isn't a bad hook as these things go. The conflict of course is that time is running out for these guys to survive.

HH Com 372

Psyche wished all her young life for the perfect husband. And when she finds him, he's not just perfect, he's divine: Eros, the god of love himself. Unfortunately, with a divine husband comes a divine mother-in-law, and Aphrodite is not pleased that an "upstart mortal" dared to marry her son. To keep the two apart, Aphrodite locks Eros on Mount Olympus, and sets a series of tasks to wane Psyche's love. Now, if she ever wishes to see her husband again, Psyche must scale mountains, collect the deathly waters of the river Styx, and even visit the Underworld itself.

What's missing is the element of conflict. Is Aphrodite activiely opposing our gal Psyche? What you have here is a list of tasks, but no sense of who's trying to stop her. I can hear you saying "but but..the tasks, they're really impossible", and that is true. However, this is a novel, a romance novel (sort of) so we assume dear Psyche will prevail. What makes it fun is seeing the obstacles and how she overcomes them.

As to the difficutly, Miss Snark visits the Underworld often. It's called the luggage room.

Use the hook format to get an idea of the things you need to cover. Then make it your own.

HH Com 371

Petra Paris, 29, is a professional diamond-hunter, a beautiful field geologist on a mission to collect drill core samples containing high grade rough diamonds. If she does not return from a remote diamond mine site in the Arctic within five days, her dad’s career will be ruined. The CEO of Excelsior Mining and Exploration had her father charged for fraudulently salting the mine’s preliminary drilling results. She suspects the CEO is trying to divert attention from his own criminal activities, but has no proof. What’s crystal clear is that someone is trying to stop her.

Seth Cooper, 32, is a police detective assigned to the Diamond Protection Unit. When a mine employee with a gut full of priceless pebbles dies trying to smuggle them out of the open pit mine site accessible only by air, Seth goes undercover as a charter company pilot to investigate.

Needing an excuse to infiltrate the mining camp and search for the smugglers at the source, he convinces Petra to allow him to pose as her boyfriend so he can overnight in the mine dormitory. No fool, she agrees; she needs all the protection she can get.

But Seth didn’t anticipate that Petra’s arrival at the mine would spook the smugglers, triggering events that lead to murder. When Petra refuses to leave the mine site without the drill cores necessary to absolve her father, Seth must identify the killers before she becomes the next victim.


This isn't a hook, it's a synopsis. Less is more. You've got too much detail and not enough of the antagonist at all.

Use the hook template to get the main ingrediants sorted out. Then start over.

HH Com 370

Cathleen Carrington is happily married, runs her own business, and enjoys a good life, but she’s never been able to forget her past. When her husband loses his job, and her mother becomes critically ill, she’s finally able to return to her hometown. There, she searches
for the grave of her One True Love, and literally awakens the ghosts of her past. Now she must choose between the man she married, AND the one who died twenty years before.

This isn't a hook. It's description of plot.

There's a huge flaw in the logic here if you want her to be sympathetic: she's happily married so when her husband loses his job she leaves him to go to her home town (where I assume the sick mother is)?

And are you really telling me her dillemma is choosing between a ghost and real guy. I mean unemployed is one thing but the guy isn't non-corporeal.

and "finally able" implies a barrier of some sort...what?

Start over.

HH Com 369

It's tough to be a princess waiting for true love when your Prince Charming is trying to kill you, your best friend has discovered the secret to the most forbidden of magics, and your fairy godmother neglected to leave you any sensible shoes.

Princess Alysia (Aly to friends) waits, not very patiently, in a distant tower for her true love. When he tries to kill her instead of kiss her, she escapes and makes her way back to her kingdom, Adelai, to reclaim her life. In the meantime, her cousin and best friend, Risse, has discovered how to use magic, a taboo going back to the beginning of civilization. As Risse learns to control magic and, for the first time, understands the allure of power, another sort of magic grips her: love for the prince of a nearby rival country. And in order to keep her magic and marry her prince, she must usurp Aly's rightful place.

"The Frog Princes of Adelai" follows Aly and Risse as they struggle with the choices between good and evil, loyalty and betrayal, good wine and bad shoes. Their choices eventually bring them face-to-face in the middle of a war when what they each decide about how much the
other is worth will determine whether Adelai falls and whether magic lives on or is buried forever.

Why why why does every princess story have to have these crazy ass names?? Alysia of Adelai? Please, give me something normal like Gertrude of Bloomingdales.

You've got the fun start of an idea here but then it devolves into the usual. Why should we care if magic lives on or is buried forever? More focus on the conflict with Risse will help too.

HH com 368

REVENGE IN SULAMAR is an erotic fantasy/romance complete at 65,000 words.

Tamar, a proud young aristocrat in the city of Talgar, impulsively buys Fazil, a handsome slave being sold at auction. Fazil is a spy from the enemy city of Sulamar who is trying to find out where the Talgarian royal treasury keeps its store of gold. Tamar hates all men from Sulamar for their past attacks on Talgar, and she does not allow her attraction to Fazil to sway her. Instead, she treats him cruelly, provoking him and humiliating him in front of her lover. When Fazil learns where the gold is kept, he escapes and leads a raid to capture it, taking Tamar prisoner. In Sulamar, he forces her to submit to him and makes her his slave. Despite her shame and humiliation, Fazil gives her more pleasure than any man she has known. Still, she longs to return home until learns that she has been sentenced to death in Talgar because she is considered to be a traitor and blamed for the raid. In despair, Tamar tries to kill Fazil but fails. He sends her away to be a servant to his aunt in a remote village. There, Tamar comes to realize that she loves Fazil, and when he comes back for her later, she is overjoyed. But then she overhears him tell his aunt that her death sentence in Talgar has been lifted by the King who now realizes her innocence. In the end, Tamar must choose between her devotion to Talgar and the man she loves.

This isn't a hook, it's a synopsis. It's not a hook because it's not compelling and enticing. Don't ever send this in a query letter, ok?

Start over. Less is more.

HH Com 367

Recipe for disaster: Take Louisa “Lou” Preston, aspiring pastry chef. Stir in a diabetes diagnosis. Sprinkle liberally with a wacky cooking mentor, conservative parents, and demanding friends and siblings. Burn dreams of sweet fame and fortune until crispy.

Recipe for love: Take the steaming heap of Lou’s life. Add a tasty EMT explorer who makes Lou’s heart melt like dark chocolate. Throw in the chance to win a national cooking contest. Kiss until perfectly done.

Sugar High is a completed 50,000 word manuscript target for the YA market. In this first person narrative intended for readers ages 12 and up, Lou recounts her junior year of high school. She shares her snarky opinion on everything from diabetes and doctors to boys and her wacky family.

Readers who enjoy the comedic realism of Princess Diaries and Vegan, Virgin, Valentine and the satire of the movie, Saved, will welcome Lou's conversational wit.


well by now you know this isn't a hook. You've got vim and vivid writing here. I like that. You need to show me there's more than just a cute idea here though so you need a hook.

snarky opinions indeed. MissSnark is calling for the cookie delivery van.

HH Com 366

The Vember Mill is a modern fable about a boy whose rural community is on the brink of economic collapse. When the boy discovers a family of river sprites in the hills near his home, he learns they too are near ruin.

(your hook starts here)
Preston Vatticus hasn't adjusted to the solitude of his stepfather's home in the farmlands of Northern Utah. His only friend is Corvery, a talkative young raven. After hearing a painful scream in the hills, Preston and Corvery meet the Trenchers--mythical folks who dig the river beds and shape the river banks. Lately the Trenchers have grown frightened of the creek water. Animals that drink from it have been changing into monstrous beasts, and an old miller is bent on keeping this a secret.

Meanwhile, the creek water flows downhill to the irrigation ditches of the Cache Valley, where desperate farmers have been selling their land to developers, and the rural culture is growing thin. Preston's stepfather has slipped into hopelessness, and Preston's mother isn't far behind. Preston now faces a dilemma. Righting the wrongs of the Vember Mill may require him to push his stepfather over the breaking-point. But ignoring the plight of the Trenchers could bring an even worse fate.

This isn't a hook it's a description of the plot, sort of. It's missing the antagonist and it's not specific enough to hook me. And "modern fable" is one of those phrases that makes me say no no no. I really hate anything smacking of "fable" becuase it implies stock characters and no plot, but that's just me.

HH Com 365

When Tabitha Nelson's friend and mentor Rebecca is murdered, Tabitha's grief and confusion are intensified by the dream she had the night of Rebecca's death. In the dream, Tabitha entered a strange house, and saw a woman's body posed by the front door... just as Rebecca's body was posed.

As the people Tabitha loves are killed one by one, each found dead in the same way as they appear in Tabitha's dreams, she is drawn further and further into the house of her dreams... but will she find a nightmare in the final room?

well, ok, check "make friends with Tabitha" off the list of things to do in the new year.

This isn't a hook it's a description of action.

Start over. Suspense has to have an antagonist.

HH Com 364

SUNSHINE KIDS MAKE MONEY

The nameless twenty-something narrator doesn’t really like people. He doesn’t like cars, either. He hates fish and likes to smell everything. He has a subscription to EQUESTRIAN DREAMS, but doesn’t own a horse. He hates Tuesdays and loves Wednesdays. His grandpa left him a house when he was killed by a lawnmower. He has no idea what alcohol is and he hates small talk. Coca cola commercials frighten him, and he talks to his toaster.

No one knows what’s wrong with him, because he’s never been to the doctor.

It could be the result of being raised by his insane, senile grandfather.

Maybe he’s just nuts.

Maybe not.

See the world through his eyes as he becomes obsessed with an immoral door-to-door sales program called The Sunshine Kids. During his quest to become a top sales person and win a mountain bike, he discovers a dead body in an alley near his house. He shifts his focus and becomes determined to discover the killer and solve the mystery. (Didn’t I mention that he loves mysteries?)

The world he occupies is offensive, sick, dark, complex and maybe a little crazy. Okay, maybe it’s very crazy. (stop here) But you may just find yourself laughing as the narrator awkwardly squirms his way through a populace he loathes to solve a mystery he’s obsessed with, all while trying to sell enough baked goods and trinkets to become a Sunshine Kids All-Star.


Now THIS is a character Miss Snark identifies with. I wonder if he'd consider an apprenticeship at a literary agency??

Why this works: it's vivid, it's energetic, it's not the usual fluffy kid saving the world. I'll overlook the lack of "why this matters" cause I like the writing a lot.

HH Com 363

AGONY AT ANTIETAM takes place during the Civil War Maryland campaign of September, 1862 and culminates with the bloodiest single day in American history, the Battle of Antietam. Two soldiers with a mysterious connection, a stoic Rebel private and a Yankee lieutenant, a tortured genius, must fight each other for victory, survival, and the love of the same woman. The Rebel must also avenge the murder of his brother at the hands of renegades from the same side while the Yankee must flee military detectives who wrongfully accuse him of murder.


This isn't a hook, it's a description. Be specific. Focus on the characters and what's at stake. "tortured genius" is the worst sort of cliche. And "love of the same woman" is such an over used trope that it should never be used agaian.

HH Com 362

When does a psychic know he's clairvoyant and not whacked-out nuts? In the mainstream novel, Fighting Gravity, 33-year-old Brian Thompson has dodged the truth for most of his life, but lately a persistent vision derails him with the revelation of a murder--not just any murder, but the brutal death of his new upstairs neighbor, a gorgeous flirt, Sandra Stein.

It's free-fall time for Brian. His detested job as an art director at a Boston ad agency is constant stress, he's adjusting to single life after a bitter divorce, and now he can't decide whether to acknowledge his prophetic ability, let alone warn his neighbor about her impending death.

His gay colleague, the colorful and amusing Frank, encourages Brian to explore a New Age solution. Though he's skeptical, Brian begins therapy with a psychiatrist, a doctor who happens to be clairvoyant. As his life unravels, his psychic shrink guides him on a transformational passage.


This is like Tony Soprano without the evil mother and the gun wielding posse.

You've got part of what you need. Now we need to know why it matters.

HH Com 361

Three days before Jessie Parker starts sixth grade, her mother, an Army reservist, is unexpectedly deployed to Iraq for one year.

With her mother gone, Jessie is left to help her father care for toddler siblings, to manage an up-and-down relationship with a best friend, and, most pressing, to deal with Val Morano, a mean girl at school.

Remembering her promise to “be good,” Jessie tolerates Val’s bullying taunts — until she insults Jessie’s soldier mom. Jessie is torn between doing what she wants and doing what she knows is right. She decides to seek advice, but changes her mind after sneaking a peek at an email not intended for her. Desperate to match her mother’s bravery and independence, Jessie resolves to handle her problem on her own, in her own way… Proud and vulnerable, Jessie takes an emotional journey that parallels her mother’s physical one.

Told in first person narrative interspersed with emails to and from Iraq, Miss You is a parent-away-at-war story told from the perspective of the child left behind.

Yup, this works. Big time.

HH Com 359

“Only the European Union could send an English health and safety inspector to the heart of Rural Italy.” So says Lorenzo Campagno, patriarch of the family-run village restaurant in remote Santo Stefano. For years he and his children have kept the restaurant open against the prevailing forces of globalization and depopulation, and the restaurant remains at the centre of
village life.

Enter restaurant inspector Philip Shuttleworth: fussy, eccentric, and very English. His inspection is picky, but highly critical, and the restaurant is given two months to reform or face a fine that would put them out of business.

Stunned, the family set about revamping the restaurant and its menu to meet the requirements of the report. But the clinical approach demanded by the inspector does not go down well with the customers. As the villagers start to abandon the restaurant, their own communal life falls into decline. To make matters worse, Lorenzo discovers that the inspector has befriended his
daughter when he catches them together in the restaurant kitchen.

With the restaurant struggling to attract customers, the return of the inspector imminent, and the village’s very soul under threat, Lorenzo and his family urgently need to find a way to keep the restaurant and the village alive.

This is a hook.
The only quibble I have (and it wouldn't keep me from reading pages) is wondering if the inspector is hanging about town (befriended his daugher when he catches them together) or if the inspector is not there for the duration of the novel (return of the inspector imminent).

This is an old trope but it's got a fresh twist with the EU thing.

HH Com 357

"You can't go there," said the bus driver categorically when I asked about the chambres de passage at the bus depot in Sikasso.
Instead, he stopped at an intersection and motioned to a vertical fluorescent light bulb. I thanked him and climbed off. It was 1:30 a.m. The hotel by the light was the Mamelon that Sam had managed before he got into the nightclub business. It meant ‘nipple.’ I woke up the guy on a mat in front of the door.
"Full," he said. "Try the Wassoulou."
"Is it far?"
"Yes."
"How can I get there?"
"By taxi." Not a single vehicle passed since I'd gotten off the bus.
"Where can I find a taxi?"
"Follow the noise," he said. I heard faint thumping. "A nightclub," he said. "There are taxis."
These were philosophical moments, alone, on a deserted street, walking away from the only light, in a town I'd never thought of going to before, and of which I didn't have a map.
The nightclub was Sam's Explosion. The guys outside thought I was one crazy white idiot with luggage in the middle of the night. I asked for Sam. It caused a stir and they became friendly.
"Sam went home early," they said. "It's Monday night."
"Where can I find a taxi?"
"At the main street," they said pointing into the dark.

Drifting overland through Africa, ex-businessman Jerry Mellinger, 42, loses his moorings and much more and emerges a changed man.


Well, this isn't a hook, it's a first page. I'm actually interested in African travels, so I'd read further but you need a hook.

You don't want to depend on luck to find someone interested in a particular topic. A good hook will help you snag interest from agents who didn't even know they were interested in this.

12.22.2006

HH Com 356

She left the baby in the cab and ran. Instinct carried her down the grassy ditch of the busy highway. Her mind was dark and puzzled. At that moment, she did not know her name.

Parts of an Arch chronicles Creel Bonaventure’s journey to craziness and back. It started with a car crash which killed her husband and their five children. Pregnant, spiritually abandoned and left behind, she never saw the breakdown coming.

A decade later, an anchor-less university student, Carson Lee, is on a sojourn of her own when she encounters the Bonaventure’s history while researching her thesis. Her future gets mixed up with the broken family, as she stumbles into a relationship with Creel’s brother-in-law.

Stone arches are three-dimensional, and so is this rural Louisiana tale told in 79,000 words. The story belongs to all of them: Creel, Carson and the abandoned child. This child, Zander Stewart, is adopted by the man who befriended Creel when she began to unravel. If he could have coffee with you, Zander Stewart might tell you he lived an un-wrecked life beyond the history of his family’s loss. Or would he?

He’ll face his past soon enough, and Creel will have to answer for her actions. Carson, too, will have to deal with her own part in the story – by finding love she benefited from the Bonaventure’s tragedy. Her romance sets events in motion that will reunite the lost son and mother.

This isn't a hook, it's a jambalaya of description. You've got the same problem that the two stories divided by 200 years post did: 250 isn't goinig to let you do justice to this. Write a hook for all three characters. Then see how you can make it into one.

HH Com 355

Jack McDermott looked out over the Montana farmland. He never tired of the view, and the way the fields bled into the foothills. From his position in the open loft of Charlie's barn, he could see for miles. He then glanced around at the men on either side of him, men he knew and trusted as true friends. Finally, he gazed down at the six hooded figures spread out below them.

"What we do, we do in the name of humanity and the Lord."

As soon as Jack finished these words, he raised his rifle, as did the men flanking him. Although unsure of exactly how many times this scene had played out, his anger and emotion never diminished. As the guns echoed, each hooded figure in turn fell silent.

Jack's mind could only see his sister, each black hood a reflection of her last terrified moments. He held no regret, nor any solace.

As the shots echoed away, a soft voice emerged from one of the bodies, a brief and final
sigh for mercy. Rifles were again raised in unison, and amid the deafening sound the body went limp. But no one noticed that Jack never pulled his trigger.

This isn't a hook. This is a first page. It's not bad but I'd rather read a hook to get a sense of what's going on here.

HH Com 354

Is ‘blood is thicker than water’ a truism or a cliché? Josie Braithwaite is forced to face this issue in my novel, Daddy’s Girls. An African-America urban professional living in Washington, DC, Josie has a career that is unfulfilling. She caught her soon-to-be ex-husband with another woman. Now her father, Joey B., has died.

At Joey’s funeral Josie sees an unknown yet familiar-looking young woman, and wonders who she is. Josie discusses her concerns with her sister, Sherri. Sherri already knows who the woman is but lies to Josie. Joey told Sherri about his illegitimate daughter, Deborah, before he died. Sherri contacts and meets with Deborah also without telling Josie.

When Josie reads her father’s will she learns of Deborah’s existence, Sherri’s betrayal and the modest inheritance that is to be shared by all three. Angry with Sherri’s deception and subsequent maneuvers; hurt by her father’s (and husband’s) infidelity, Josie must decide how many sisters she wants and needs and whether Joey’s legacy is more than financial.



Your story starts when she discovers the sister, no matter how far into the book that is. That's the compelling incident. You'll need to make Deborah a more major part of the hook too.

HH Com 353

“In my line of work, there are times when I discover things I can’t explain in places they ought not to be.” So says British maritime archaeologist Dr. Amanda Cheswick, who has just unearthed a 200-year-old mystery under the wreck of a Royal Navy warship.

“It will take back the seas from the British.” So says René Lacombe, the young French builder of a revolutionary ship that in 1808 will strike the first blow in a new kind of warfare. Unfortunately for him, the wealthy widow he’s speaking to is really a British spy.

Separated by 200 years, Amanda’s and René’s lives collide 35 feet under the Bay of Marseille in parallel stories of then and now in SWIFTSURE, a novel of intrigue and discovery set in the worlds of Napoleonic France and modern maritime archaeology. Their stories intersect over two eras in the wreck-strewn waters of the French Mediterranean coast.

René fights betrayal, sabotage and murder to make Liberté, his crowning achievement, ready to challenge the 19th Century’s most powerful navy. Shadowed by the spies of two nations and harried by the Emperor's government, Lacombe seeks solace from the one person he shouldn't -- the lovely widow who may be leading him to a bad end...

With the clock ticking down to the time when dredges will destroy the wreck site forever, Amanda struggles against modern-day official treachery and harassment to uncover the most important underwater archaeological artifact in a generation -- and to rewrite a chapter of history.


You've got a nifty problem trying to write a hook for two separate stories divided by 200 years. You obviously have to link them yet make each compelling. You don't do that here.

I advise writing a hook for each story, then figuring out how to connect them up. The 250 word limit here strangled any chance you had to do that.

HH Com 352

“Love.”
No answer.
“Love.”
No answer.
“John Love!” I cried, losing my patience at last. “Wake up, for Christ’s sake.”
“What?” he asked finally, and then rolled over again and asked no more.
I thought about kicking him, and then repented of it. I sighed and sat down on the edge of the bunk bed.
“It’s your Ma, Johnny. She’s in the hospital again.”
Yeah, that got him up, all right. Not awake, maybe, not fully, but reeling out of bed. Stubbed his toe, too, before he found his bleeding slippers, which gave me a little satisfaction, but, to do me credit, not all that much.
“What’s happened?” he asked.
“Same thing as always happens, isn’t it?”
She drinks, see? But I didn’t like to say it point blank like that.
“How bad?”
“Calling from the hospital bad.”
“Shit,” he said. He never swears, except about his mother. She’s the type who’d have washed his mouth out for it in days gone by, so you can work that one out for yourself, I believe. “She called, or someone called for her?”
“If she called herself, you’d be having this conversation with her, not me, now wouldn’t you?” Nice guy, but the brightest bulb in the room I don’t think.
“How did you . . . How did she . . .”
“Let’s go on into the kitchen now, Johnny boy. I’ll make you a nice cup of tea and then I’ll tell you all I know.”
“Whiskey,” he said.


This isn't a hook, it's a first page. It's a first page with nothing that confounds my expectations or entices me to read on.

Start over. Use the hook format. Then make it your own.

HH Com 351

In PARADISE BLUES, a 65,000-word mystery novel, (your hook starts here) Wes Darling is faced with a dilemma. His family has been in the detective business almost as long as the Pinkertons, and his manipulative mother is grooming him to carry on the family tradition. So what’s the problem? Wes hates the business and has decided this will be his final case.

It was supposed to be a simple assignment. Fly to Key West, locate a girl, let his client know where to find her, and fly home. But things don’t always go as planned in paradise, especially when you take a reluctant detective, a six-foot-tall redheaded stripper named Destiny, a couple of hit men who think they’re stuck in the thirties, and a phobic psychic named Elvis and throw them together on a small island. When you toss in a fortune in diamonds, a couple of bodies, and the local characters that inhabit Key West, you get a raging case of PARADISE BLUES.


This isn't a hook; it's a premise and list of characters. This says knock off Carl Hiassen to me. Come up with a way to make me belive what you've got is fresh turn on a very very very overused motif.

Hh Com 350

The signs were there – twelve year-old Jason’s tantrums, bullying, emotional detachment and then there was the matter of the bludgeoning of a neighbor’s cat. But it’s only when four-year-old Karl, whom Jason has befriended, is missing that Grace Genovese can no longer ignore her son’s disturbing behavior.

When Karl is found murdered and Jason confesses to the crime Grace’s world is ripped apart. Impossible, she thinks. But, on a deeper level she’s suspected his guilt all along. She wants to stand by him but is horrified by his lack of remorse.

When Grace encounters Karl’s mother, she comes to the terrifying realization that she wishes her son had never been born. She discovers there’s a worse torment than the death of one’s child. That is to be the mother of a child-killer.

At her lowest point Grace comes to realize she cannot spend her life mourning her son and decides to pursue her dream of owning a business.

(your hook ends here)
I wrote Fruit of the Poisoned Tree to explore the themes of guilt, grief and healing after my daughter was killed. At that time I believed no greater tragedy could befall a parent, but after much thought, I discovered I’d been wrong.

My novel is a story about a mother’s hope, redemption and courage. While Grace’s situation is extreme, it is emblematic of every parent’s angst, especially mothers, who will relate to Grace’s struggle as they themselves must deal with a wide range of issues regarding responsibility for their children.

I absolutely assure you that no mother wants to relate to being the parent of a murderer. Even the ones who are.

I see a lot of novels that were written for therapeutic purposes. It's generally not a good thing to put in a query letter. Why you wrote it really doesn't matter to the story. The story has to stand on its own regardless of motivation.

There are some novels that deal with this topic, most particularly We Need To Talk About Kevin


The idea that she deals with the problems of her son by opening a business is such an oddball response that I'm left wondering what kind of business as if that would make it less odd.

This isn't a hook, it's sort of a description.

HH com 349

The Goddess of Romance Writing has pulled the plug on Kelly King’s three works in progress, progress being a relative term. When her computer crashes, Kelly has plenty of time to work on her own love life with Paul Laurent, the Navy vet down the block. And her characters band together in her corrupted files to rescue themselves from certain death. If hapless Kelly and her computer aren’t reprogrammed, their chances of publication are hopeless.

Kelly may be a redhead now, just like her favorite authors, but she has absolutely nothing in common with them or her three fiery-haired heroines. Before she tried to conquer the publishing world, she was a denim-clad kindergarten teacher. NCLB now stands for no cliché left behind. Spunky Lady Eleanor is about to stow away with her duke/spy husband Lionel and lose the Battle of New Orleans. Straight-laced Eliza is trying to civilize sheriff Lincoln and the entire state of Texas. Sophisticated Ella is a supermodel with a smart mouth and other assets that fascinate a hot Irish photographer named Liam.

Regency, Western and Chick-lit, plus a little time-travel, combine with Kelly and Paul’s contemporary mature relationship to make Third-Rate Romance a genre-bending satiric Valentine. The reader reaps the “benefit” of seeing Kelly’s chapters and what her characters do when she leaves her desk to live her life. Bad writing has never looked so good.


Some years back I had a chance to see Mikhail Baryshnikov on stage. It was an absolute joy to watch him dance. Late in the program he did a very funny piece, to Frank Sinatra music as I recall, wherein he danced "badly". It was hysterical.

I realized then that to make "bad dancing" look that real, he had to be very very very good. In the hands of the lesser dancer we wouldn't have known it was planned, we would have had our hearts in our mouths that this guy was falling down and losing his costume.

I say that because making "bad writing" funny is really really really hard. I see a lot of this and it almost never works. Truly bad writing is excruciating to read, and for proof I offer up some of the posts below this one.

I also find this writing about writers, and characters being real to be rather an in joke. Sort of like the waitresses sitting around the bar when a shift is over and "doing" their least favorite customers for laughs for the other girls.

There's no antagonist and no conflict here. It's all just spun sugar gimmick.

HH Com 348

Bob Hillfinger adores Nobuko. She scintillates with energy. She is frustrated with her career and admires him, who'd set himself free by walking out of a job. He, Euro-American who'd never been anywhere outside America and Europe, is suddenly enthralled by Japan. He is 40, she 26. And they just met in a castle in France.

After one night together--she doesn't seem eager but doesn't hesitate--she returns to Tokyo and he to Atlanta. Normally, for Bob, this would be it. But five months later, he travels to Australasia and Japan. In Tokyo, they become soul mates for two blissful nights a week and occasional weekends. The rest of the time, she is unavailable and he errs through the incomprehensible megalopolis he comes to love and dread.

One day she says that, before Bob's arrival, her trusted friend Kiso-san proposed a relationship leading to marriage and children. He even granted her a 90-day reprieve to accommodate Bob. She respects Kiso-san. She loves Bob. But Bob had a vasectomy and isn't Japanese. Love and marriage aren't linked in Japan, she tells him teary-eyed, and now his 90 days are up.

Reeling, Bob flies to Vietnam and floats without purpose and end across the wondrous lands of Eurasia, writing love letters to Nobuko because he isn't whole without her and because he knows life isn't fair, not even to Kiso-san, who has the best cards in his hand, except for an ace.

(Commercial Fiction, 142,000 words)

Some of this just doesn't make sense: "he errs through the incomprehensible megalopolis he comes to love and dread" for just one example.

I'm guessing English is a second language for you. You're obviously skilled but you'll need the help of some solid critique work before you need to worry about a hook. This isn't ready to send out.

And 142,000 words is twice as much as you'll want.

HH Com 347

Benny Jack was a media darling. As an FBI agent, he was above extraordinary. Benny’s separation from Virginia’s elite made his fall even harder. When he disappeared and attempted retirement at age 48, the result was a houseboat’s evolution into the headquarters for Jack’s Investigations.

In a bathroom three miles east of the Sleepy Cove Marina in which his boat floats, a delivery driver discovers a crucified body. Unable to remain eternally anonymous, months earlier Benny befriended the local police who called Benny before the town sheriff. Arriving on the scene, he finds the body ornamented with a half-crown of thorns and a dead bird at its feet and is instantly thrust back onto the national scene.

The murders that follow yield further winged deaths. Benny and his partner Billy D. find a grand piano’s belly spilling with more dead feathery fellows. The victim at the second scene has one hand glued to the keys of a piano and a tambourine stitched into the palm of the other. The chase of the minds is on!

A trilateral attack of characters seizes the center of the novel Birdsongs. Archenemies reunite for some well-overdue revenge and a lad named Red brings the monkey wrench. Raised by deaf-mute parents, Red speaks with the precision of a three-year-old who lingually prefers the third person. Red holds an odd connection and a fowl clue.

Tilley, a town that once yawned, awakens to the mind-crushing reality that a killer flies among them. Benny Jack is back.


Dear dog.

This isn't a hook. This is a mess.

HH Com 346

Dexter McCray is a mentally unstable farmer who awakens from an alcoholic blackout to discover the body of a teenage girl in his cornfield. In order to prove his innocence, he must find out who is responsible and fast, because if the police find her, all eyes will focus on him; after all, everyone in town knows he’s killed before.

this plot is so old it voted for Grover Cleveland..twice.
You mention he's mentally unstable. Is there a reason that's important?
How long do you think she can lie in the cornfield before someone notices?

You need more here.

HH Com 345 (344 is lost in the woods)

Appetite For Beauty is a 55,000-word Young Adult novel about an "it" girl’s tragic battle with bulimia, told from the view of her younger sister.

Loann Rochester is living in the shadow of her sister. Claire is an accomplished ballerina, beauty queen, and cheerleader. Loann is Claire’s self-critical younger sibling, a loveable loser, whose attempts to emulate Claire include altering her appearance, changing her friends, and seeking a sexual encounter with Claire’s boyfriend.

By accident, Loann discovers a natural talent for photography. Through her camera lens, she finds some unexpected truths from the world around her. Her dad’s a womanizing workaholic, her mom, in her effort to keep up with appearances, is losing touch with reality, and her sister, Claire, is being overtaken by a severe eating disorder.

Loann befriends Marcus, a loner at school struggling with his sexuality, and he becomes her silent strength. Loann convinces Claire to fight for her life, but her heart is too weak for the struggle. It is only after Claire completely succumbs to her illness, that Loann’s own strength and normalcy unfolds.

You've got too many people in this very crowded paragraph. Her parents are out of touch-doesn't matter why. She discovers photography...and how does the photography relate to discovering things?

And ditch allmention of Marcus. Follow the template and figure out what this story is about.
I think bulimia/anorexia/eating disorders have been done to death as well. Unless you have something new and fresh to say about it you're not going to hook me with that topic.

HH Com 343

Newly pregnant, Rachel Harkins sees the summer before she becomes a mom as her final chance to “make a difference.” She volunteers to chaperone a wilderness adventure trip for teenagers transitioning from a Raleigh juvenile detention facility. Five days bushwhacking in high-summer North Carolina underbrush equals hell for a city girl, but Rachel wills herself to face lethal humidity, 70-pound backpacks, and clouds of biting insects. What she never dreams is that she’ll leave at home a husband who is angry and rigid with concern over the safety of their unborn child. And how could she guess that the kids she wants to help will hate her?

Not only is a seventeen-year-old threatening to “ice her ass,” but the group gets lost in the Black Mountains. Someone sabotages the supplies, and one by one the other chaperones disappear. Inexperienced and alone in her shaky authority, Rachel fights to connect with the group and lead them back to civilization. But under her charge, a boy dies in a strange accident, and all hopes of winning trust are lost. The teenagers mutiny, abandoning Rachel to face by herself the very real dangers of the wilderness, injury, and the likelihood that a killer is stalking herr every move. But Rachel can’t give up on the kids. Knowing the sensible thing is try to save herself and her baby, Rachel’s sense of self-preservation are pitted against her sense of duty for children determined to resist her help.

You're going to be hardpressed to have Rachel be sympathetic. She sounds like a self absorbed idiot to me.

Who's the bad guy? the stalking killer? I'm rooting for him.

I'm not sure why you made her pregnant ( uh...that isn't exactly what it sounds like) and I'm not sure what the stakes and the conflict are exactly.

The problem isn't the hook, I fear; it's the novel.

HH com 342

When Martin, a drug-addicted bisexual man, is found stabbed to death in a crack-house, Isabel re-lives their affair and how it led to her descent into near-madness.

Their history unfolds in Isabel’s diaries and letters, which gradually reveal the extent of Martin’s cruelty to her. While considering their affair in the light of his murder, she is forced to ask herself why she, attractive, still young, and a successful lawyer, put up with his abuse.

Isabel realizes that although she is broad-minded and well-read, she is not equipped to understand the evil of which Martin is capable. Nor, she comes to understand, were the other lovers who endured similar treatment from him, some of them her friends and acquaintances.

Is one of them responsible for his murder? Or was his death simply a random killing by a fellow-addict, as the police appear to believe?

This isn't a hook. This is a run down of the plot. And a tepid one at that.

HH Com 341

My novel has received a great response from its readers so far, including an endorsement by [Famous Author], which he has given me permission to use:

"[This writer] reveals his metropolitan world -- with an intimacy and power few of us would otherwise be priviliged to share. This sensitively written and fast-paced tale will lure you in for an exciting ride."

-- [Famous Author], author of [cool book] (Random House)

The protagonist Davis Jarvey is a talented painter who unwittingly makes a Faustian pact. His conflict begins when he meets John, a wealthy autograph dealer. Set in New York and London, the book deals with the artist's dilemma in a very entertaining way; and the reader is taken on a suspenseful journey into the world of theatre, art, and gay love. [Title] is a novel of ideas -- and I think you'll find it to be quite an original.

I think you'll find the hook model helpful.

I loathe people telling me what I'll think of their book. They are 99 out of 100 times wrong; not just wrong but REALLY wrong.

HH Com 340

Sometimes, Caro Sweet wonders whether getting her PhD at the University of Texas is worth the trouble, especially since she has to work full time just to make ends meet. But when her dissertation advisor, Harry “The Horrible” Hobbly, turns up dead, she has more to worry about than a passing grade. The manner of Harry’s murder makes a statement Caro is uniquely qualified to interpret; if she doesn’t get it right, she could wind up in jail…or worse. With a little help from her friends and a shady—if sexy—club owner, Caro is on her way to solving a mystery well outside the ivory tower.


This is the barest minimum of a correct hook form. I might read pages if it was a slow day or I didn't have a huge back log of queries just to see if you've got energetic vivid writing, but this is barely a plot. I'd probably ask for a synopsis before I asked for a partial on this just to see what you're doing.

HH Com 339 (339 is workinig in the coal mines)

What if you inherit something that may be stolen--and may very well get you killed, or at least in big trouble with the feds, Interpol, and your Grandma?

Pauline Goodwin led a harum-scarum life--she lost her fiancé to the 1918 flu, ran away to Egypt in time to get a glimpse of King Tut’s newly discovered treasures, and nearly married a British lord with a dark secret. When her body is found in the sands of her beloved Egypt, two women as unconventional as Pauline herself inherit her estate, her secrets, and her enemies.

Enter Tink and James, a couple of overgrown Nancy Drews in the throes of a quarter-life crisis. But their stress about what to do when they grow up is nothing compared to digging for buried treasure in a local cemetery, dodging an armed madman in a casino, being interrogated by foreign police, and dating a hot Egyptologist who may just be trying to get them killed.

In The Heart Scarab, James and Tink race from America to England to Egypt to unravel the mystery of their great-aunt Pauline’s life, death, and the sacred object of love she accidentally stole in 1923. An object that someone will go to any lengths to steal back.


Start with the main character, even if that's not who we meet first in the book. Tink and James, in this case. Then tell us what happens to them. Aunt Pauline and her perils are mere clauses in the hook du jour.

Start again.

HH Com 337

In July of 1917, recently widowed Katie Bayne is jailed under false charges. Her children are locked away in the County Home. Only one price will secure their freedom: custody of Katie’s newborn son.

Irena Ashton Bayne, Katie’s mother-in-law, is intent on raising the boy. Having lost her own son, first to estrangement and then to death, Irena fixes the blame to Katie. She is determined to groom Katie’s son to replace her own. In truth, Irena’s ruthless business practices are responsible for the alienation of her son. Founder of Ashton, a coal boomtown, Irena has long nursed a grudge against miners for the suspicious death of her father.

Katie is drawn to the center of unionization efforts when her fight to reclaim her baby entwines with the strife of the Ashton miners. She confronts the escalating wrath of Irena Ashton Bayne and garners the affection of a devoted ally. Katie must overcome grief and discover her own true strength in order to reunite her family and explore the possibility of a new love.


Monster In Law meets Norma Rae.

You'd do better to make this not a newborn but a teen age son; one who could actually be "groomed to take the place of". You have a newborn, you have diapers and 18 years before you can get much work out of them.

How did a womn found a coal town in 1917? You know women couldn't even own property in some states at that time so there's more to this than "founder of a coal town" reveals. One of the members of the founding family perhaps.

And if she's a business woman, I assure you she's learned to use charm to get her way. Don't you think she'd be more likely to try to woo the son away than go to all the trouble of locking up his ma?

These are the things that skitter through my mind when I read query letters. It's not so much did you follow a template, but do you have all the ingrediants for the story ( you don't) and does what you tell me make sense (it doesn't).

HH Com 336

Every parent’s worst nightmare is one man’s only dream.

What if a victim went willingly with her kidnapper because she’d fallen in love with his persona in the anonymous reality of the internet?

THANK HEAVEN is a 67,000-word suspense-thriller following Richard Tipton as he is pursued across the eastern seaboard after kidnapping a twelve-year-old girl he lured into an online romance.

Detailing his past as well as his present, THANK HEAVEN immerses the reader in the mind of a child molester, exploring the psychotic break that leads Richard to impersonate a fifteen-year-old in order to seduce a young girl. Melanie Andrews, naïve and trusting, covers her tracks as she goes to meet the boy with whom she’s fallen in love, causing the authorities to consider her a runaway. Two FBI agents, a divorced veteran struggling to ignore his growing feelings for a material witness and an inexperienced rookie convinced that Melanie is more than just another rebellious teen (she's not a teen if she's 12) , work twenty-four hours a day to find her before it’s too late.



I'm not much interested in a psychotic child molester. You might want to paint him in slightly less inflammatory language if you want us to have some sympathy for him as the main character---no mean task in and of itself.

This topic has been done to death now, so absent some new and fresh twist, it's toast.

and what does "too late" mean?

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.