Do you reveal your device?

Dear Miss Snark,
During the crap’ometer I received a gracious beat down from you in response to my hook. I worked on it for a month. It was the crossbreed of a Pollack and a Rothko. If the words were images, they would be hanging in the Met today.

Agent X had a similar contest and I got down to brass taxes. Simple and plain. Too plain.

I have a good hook, but it is not something that you would put on the back of book jacket. You wouldn’t go to the video store, pick up the Sixth Sense, and read that Bruce Willis thinks he is alive the whole movie, but he is really dead. Do you give away secrets in the hook?

I know this is a subject of huge debate and there isn't a hard and fast rule. I say yes. I want to know you've got a twist. Perhaps not exactly what it is, but a solid indication this isn't boring.

I'll probably get a beating from my colleagues for saying this but you might try two versions of the query: one with, one without. You don't want to send them at the same time, but if one doesn't work, try the other. (I know, I know, this goes against everything I've said before)


Blog fan. said...

"Brass taxes"? Isn't it brass tacks??

Love the blog.

Anonymous said...

"Brass taxes"? Isn't it brass tacks??

For the love of Pete, it's called a joke.

I think I hate the internet more and more each day. Either people can't read, or they can't understand. Or they take everything literally, to the letter.

If you read that a guy jumped the gun, would you think he did the nasty with a pistol? Yeah. Thought so.

Maria said...

In my experience it's about 50/50. The problem is that every agent feels strongly about it. And getting it wrong usually means a rejection because it's easier/faster and gets the work off the desk.

adrienne said...

Okay this may seem silly as I think everyone by now knows the twist to the Sixth Sense, but there may be a few people out there who don't so I dunno, maybe Miss Snark you could either warn of an impending spoiler or delete that last example from the email? I just remember having avoided the twist in The Usual Suspects so well for so long, and then I think I told someone I was renting it that weekend, and they spilled the beans. Really sucked.

Okay now back to talking about zee publishing.

Anonymous said...

"Brass taxes" looked like a mistake to me. If it was a sight pun or something, I didn't get it.

Harry Connolly said...

The thing people miss about THE SIXTH SENSE is that it has an intriguing hook without the twist ending. In fact, "I see dead people" is plenty of hook.

And "brass taxes" isn't funny. It doesn't even make sense. Don't blame the reader if your joke doesn't come across.

laura said...

Well, anonymous, it's just a doggie dog world, where people use words and phrases weather they really know how to or not.
(Short of asking the author, it's a toss up here. Understandable error or rather dim joke?)

katiesandwich said...

Ha. The Sixth Sense has been on my list of movies to see for some time now. I still have yet to see it. Guess I don't need to now! Although I think I will anyway, because Bruce Willis is awesome.

magz said...

Thanks anony 1, and may I add to that rant.
It's snot just me, wondering WTF! And certainly not Miss Snark, or apparently you.. or even just the Internet's influence in general.

Personally I'm convinced it's an insidious alien plot creating a hole in the Humor Zone, causing an alarming evaporation of the critical IQ levels worldwide.
Or perhaps the literal/ernest gene has taken a random mutation and overwhelmed the goodsense/comprehension synapses:
Thus is the evolution of the species.

(I've been reading a long-dead guy, Sam: Johnson. He saw it coming 300 yrs ago, and still died poor, horny, and baffled, despite the Boswellian Connection)

Keep smiling! (It makes them wonder what you're up to)

Anonymous said...

I've always heard you should tell it all in a query, and that the agent or editor doesn't want to waste time with suspense or surprises. I'd personally want to know if you have a twist, and, I'd want to know exactly what that twist is to see if I could sell it or not.

Gloog said...

I think the writer is answering his/her own question: "...it is not something that you would put on the back of a book jacket."

Then don't include the twist in your query. Put it in your synopsis.

A query letter is a sales pitch. It's about convincing an agent, in 30 seconds or less, why s/he should care enough to request pages. It's not about showing how clever are.

Anonymous said...

Adrienne --

I appreciate your point about spoiler warnings generally, but the Sixth Sense was 1999. You've got to be kidding, you want people to hold off after EIGHT YEARS???

Take it back, or I swear to dog I'll tell you who Rosebud is.

Anonymous said...

To second anonymous, re "brass taxes" v "brass tacks":
You're example of "jump the gun" isn't analagous, because it's used properly. "Jump the gun" and "brass tacks" are correct (and, by the way, blog.fan was not taking either tacks or taxes literally, as you suggest). An analogy to "brass taxes" would be "jump the gum". It's wrong.

Anonymous said...

I don't know about "brass taxes" being so wrong. Much like Terry Pratchett says things like "it floated in much the same way that a lead balloon doesn't", taxes are sharper, and more painful than any tacks!