1.04.2007

Finding Satan

During the last Book Hook Snark-O-Meter I saw you respond over and over to various entrants, "Where is the antagonist?" But what if the book is a mystery and the antagonist shows up as a normal person all throughout the book and it's only at the very end when the protags find out who the killer is, although they both knew him as a friend?

Doesn't the hook mainly focus on the beginning of the story and the protags' problems and what's keeping them from solving them right away? Or did you maybe mean the antag should be mentioned in the context of the problems he presents, in this case the crime? I'm speaking of a book that doesn't have scenes in the antag's POV. From reading posts on DorothyL over a period of years, most of that list's inhabitants strongly dislike scenes where the reader has to get inside the antag's head and listen to all that angst, as do I because it's been so overused in recent years.

So my question is: If you don't have any antagonist-head-scenes, how would you expect to see the antag presented in a hook, if at all?.




Mostly I want to know you HAVE one. When you send me a query, there's been no filter. I don't assume you even know what a bad guy is or that aliens don't belong in chapter 14. Your hook helps me see that you have a correctly constructed novel. From the examples you saw (and in the upcoming round two) you'll see that vivid writing can trump all of that. A good percentage of the "bingo bango bongo" entries didn't follow the XYZ form at all.

XYZ is to help you make sure you DO have all the elements and that you talk about them, rather than world building or long ass descriptions.

The function of a hook in a query letter is MUCH different than a hook on the dust jacket of a book. By the time someone picks up the book in a bookstore, more than a few people have read it and said "yea, this is good". When you send me a query letter, I'm reading with no such assurances. Being clear you know what you're doing is a good thing.

12 comments:

Ryan Field said...

"The function of a hook in a query letter is MUCH different than a hook on the dust jacket of a book."

This is a million, no billion, dollar sentence, and I wish someone would pass it along to all the people who tell writers they should fashion their plot descriptions after the copy on the inside of a dust jacket.

Kathy said...

If you have a mystery, the murderer is your antagonist. Whoever the killer is, your MC wants to stop that person and bring him/her to justice. The killer wants to get away with it. Conflict ensues.

You don't have to give the murderer's name, just the threat he/she poses.

Hope that helps.

ya author said...

Miss Snark: The function of a hook in a query letter is MUCH different than a hook on the dust jacket of a book.

Me: Thanks for the light bulb moment. I wish I'd heard these 22 words before I entered the crapathon. I did try to emulate jacketflap copy, thinking that was what I was supposed to do. Wrongo.

jamiehall said...

You need to mention that there is a murderer, and show how the existence of the bad guy ties into the main plot arc. In your query, you don't have to say "and then, on the very last page, the detective realizes that it was his wife behind it all."

Although you do need to put that in the synopsis.

Anonymous said...

Identifying your antag (or even group of antags) in your work will prevent you from making common mistakes with your structure. Such as, thinking that circumstances make good antagonists or that internal struggles are always interesting.

The antagonist has to make decisions about his/her course of action just like the protagonist does. This is sometimes unclear to new writers. Cancer, a failing economy, bad manners, luck, insecurity, and tsunamis don't make decisions.

Miss Snark wants to make sure you know the difference.

Anonymous said...

In a mystery, you could even see the victim as antagonist. Their life/situation is what conflicts/pushes the protag along. Why did someone kill them, etc? The protage starts investigating the victim anyway. Especially in a cosy. Not every mystery is about a nasty evil serial killer who dominates the plot and threatens the protag personally. Sometimes it's 'why did this person die?'

Maya Reynolds said...

When MS says she wants to know you have a "correctly constructed novel," she is talking about the fact that conflict should drive your plot.

The antagonist represents conflict--a visible symbol of the impediments standing in the path of the protagonist, preventing his/her success.

Anonymous said...

"Being clear you know what your doing is a good thing."

Even literary agents make grammar errors - hurrah!

Kit Whitfield said...

Kathy's absolutely right. Your antagonist, for the purposes of a hook, is Mr X, who can confidently be referred to as 'the killer' throughout, as in 'justice must be served before the killer strikes again.' (Possibly with synonyms to avoid repetition, of course.)

Mark said...

Definitely hype the conflict and leave nothing under the surface. Anything not spelled out is just plain nonexistent.

Anonymous said...

I think I may be a nitwit. I too have just had a "lightbulb moment" reading this post. How the hell did I manage to read every single bloody Crapometer entry and not work this out for myself?

So now I know how to write a hook but am convinced I'm far too stupid to write a book. Ho-hum.

Mark said...

For nature as an antagonist set in a science/political scene try Forty Signs of Rain by Kim Stanley Robinson. Long slow build up to a flood amidst denier politicians in DC. Ahem... Then he freezes DC in the sequel. But will they listen then?