What I Learned at RWA–UnSappy Version

  • By: Jessica Faust | Date: Jul 16 2007

Okay, enough sap. See. I need sleep.

I always say, and have always said, that you can hear something and be told something millions of times, but it isn’t until it clicks that it’s all going to come together. I’ve heard authors say this and I’ve seen it in action. Just because someone tells you what’s wrong with your work or writing doesn’t mean you’re going to get it the first time. Often we need to be in just the right place for that to happen. Well this weekend that happened for me.

I have been talking for years about how important the hook is and how it has to be a one or two sentence pitch. Well you know what? It really clicked this weekend how important that is. For every book you write you need to pitch agents and I need to pitch editors. More importantly, all of us need to pitch readers and if we can’t do that in a short sentence or two we will lose their attention.

So I want to know from you in five words if possible, or one sentence at the most. What is your book?

92 responses to “What I Learned at RWA–UnSappy Version”

  1. Avatar Chumplet says:

    Slap Shot meets Fatal Attraction, except with less swearing.

  2. Avatar Terry Stone says:

    Jane Austen in Deadwood.

  3. Avatar beverley says:

    The perfect bride, the perfect groom, the marriage from hell.

  4. Avatar Lesley says:

    Peasant witch to Dragon Princess.

  5. Avatar Anonymous says:

    Lost in the wilderness with a psychopath.

  6. Avatar Anonymous says:

    How to date a fallen angel and not get killed.


  7. Avatar Becca says:

    YA action-adventure in fairytale land.

  8. Avatar angeleque says:

    cupid stops believing in love

  9. Avatar Xakara says:

    Jason Bourne meets Merry Gentry.

  10. How long does it take to realize we’re often our own worst enemy?

  11. Blubber meets Sandlot.

  12. Blind Date in the outback…

  13. Avatar Anonymous says:

    Hooks that worked for L’Anonymous:

    Chumplet: I don’t know Slap Shot, so this hook failed for me. I can’t envision what you’re talking about.

    Michele Lee: Good elements, but the central conflict is missing, so I’m not hooked. This is too vague.

    Terry Stone: Failed for me because I don’t know Deadwood. Same comment as for Chumplet.

    Beverley: Pass! That sounds like fun. You hint at the conflict and have what sounds like a good setup.

    Lesley: Not bad, but you say nothing about the central conflict. That vagueness results in me not being hooked.

    Fellow Anonymous 1: Pretty good – you get the tension in there, but the setup is too vague to hook me.

    Fellow Anonymous 2: Pass! That sounds really interesting. You give enough details and say what the conflict is.

    Becca: Sorry, but a definite fail. So very, very vague.

    Angeleque: Pass, although with some reservations. It sounds like a nifty idea, but I don’t know what the conflict is.

    Xakara: Fail because I don’t know Merry Gentry. Same comment as for Chumplet.

    Desperate Writer: Fail because it tells me nothing specific about the book. I can care about characters very quickly, but you have to work for quite a while to make me care equally strongly about an idea.

    Colorado Writer: Fail, since I only vaguely know your references. Same comment as for Chumplet.

    Rachel Blair: Fail, although my interest is piqued. It might be a fun idea, but what you wrote is just too vague to hook me. What’s the central conflict?

    Erin: Ooh, a pass on the weredingo, although I do have reservations because it’s an idea that could so easily become nothing interesting. I’d suggest you skip mentioning Australia (which is implied by “dingo”) and hint at what the central conflict is going to be instead.

  14. Thanks for your help – despite my F grade!! But just wondering, if my conflict is that the prize on Blind Date doesn’t want to be there and the gal he picks isn’t supposed to be, how can I get this across in a couple more words???

  15. Avatar Michele Lee says:

    Post apocalyptic CSI, with vampires and shape shifters. ๐Ÿ™‚

  16. With her husband away on a long business trip, Candice fights her attraction to her first love.


  17. Avatar Lori says:

    Jane Austen meets Tarzan.

  18. Avatar Mary says:

    A girl born of two magics must choose to save the people who killed her mother or lose the magic that has defined her, while hiding from the Council that wants her dead.

    Hmm, still don’t think I have this one sentence hook down.

  19. Avatar Karen Duvall says:

    A thief becomes a hero, with death and deception as the bridge between. (Urban Fantasy)

  20. Avatar Anonymous says:

    Bad Boys of Football
    ~ Bella Andre

    ps–And can I take some credit for the “five word” thing, Jessica? ๐Ÿ˜‰

  21. Avatar Jill James says:

    Shapeshifter cops race to stop a killer virus.

  22. Avatar laceydiamond says:

    Earning three magical wishes,Claire must choose between spending fifty years with the love-of-her life or one week if she’s to reunite with the son stolen from her years ago.

  23. Avatar Chumplet says:

    Angeleque, I like yours. So many possibilities!

    Jane Austin in Deadwood makes me laugh. I don’t know Deadwood, but I know enough to know that the combination is funny.

    Blubber meets Sandlot definitely works for me!

    Here’s another one:

    When the Basques took Amanda on an inpromptu tour of the Pyrenees, she wished she’d taken her toothbrush.

    Okay, it’s more than five words, but at least it’s a sentence.

  24. Avatar spyscribbler says:

    Alias in Africa, the front lines of a new cold war: between the US and China.

  25. Avatar laceydiamond says:

    Fairy wishes and reunited love.

    That’s the five words, but they don’t seem to be a strong enough hook to me. Help!

  26. Avatar Alison says:

    A regency mystery unites two wounded souls

  27. Avatar Lesley says:

    These are too much fun! I’m enjoying everyone’s immensely.

    I’ve got another couple too…

    Cross-dressing vampiress falls in love.

    Stubborn Half-dragon Princess battles the Order Nocturne.

    I’m cheating a little and counting “the Order Nocturne” as one since it’s a name. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  28. Book 1:
    Is her modern-day Norseman’s mission to end the world – or to save it?

    Book 2:
    Her ecologist hero would throw her back in the sea, if he knew who daddy was. He’s hardly son-in-law material… or is he?

    Boook 3:
    Cutting-edge artist needs image to match his art; discovers substance within stylist.


  29. Avatar Erin says:

    Weredingo in Australia.

  30. Glass beadmakers become murderously competitive.

    (I had six words in my previous post, so I removed it.)

  31. Avatar joycemocha says:

    A crazed family of ski bums vying with themselves for control of political power and a revolutionary computer chip technology in 2057.

    That’s one.

  32. Avatar Anonymous says:

    Hook Critiques by L’Anonymous (pass/fail):

    Joycemocha: Sounds like it has zany potential, but it doesn’t hook me because I don’t have a grip on the conflict. Crazed ski bums and Very Serious Business don’t seem like they should go together.

    Rachel Blair Redux: Look at Beverley’s submission; it’s actually a decent template for what you describe.
    Blind Date in the outback: he doesn’t want to be there and she was never supposed to be.

    Writer’s Support and Inspiration: This is pretty good, but as phrased, it sounds like an old idea. It needs a bit more zip. To jumpstart the tension, you need to show that Candice has to choose between two things she really wants.

    Lori: Uh – it’s a joke? If not, I do apologise, but I don’t see how Jane Austen and Tarzan would meld, so this hook fails for me.

    Mary: Good conflict, but it is a little dry. Less detail might help – how about this?
    A girl must choose to either save the people who killed her mother or lose the magic that has defined her.

    Karen Duvall: I like the plot elements, but this fails for me because you’re too vague about what happens. What’s the conflict?

    Fellow Anonymous 3: This would be okay for non-fiction. It doesn’t work as a fiction hook.

    Jill James: Sounds pretty funky – I’ll give this a pass! The shapeshifter cops hooked my interest and you outline the conflict very succintly.

    Laceydiamond: Good conflict, but I’m confused why – if she has three wishes – she gets either one week or fifty years with her love. Clarify the logic? It’s great that she’s choosing between two things she really wants, but the hook has to make sense to someone who doesn’t know any more plot details than what are here.

    Chumplet Redux: I’d call that a pass, but with reservations. There’s no conflict mentioned. If the story is a light comedy, I think this would be fine, however.

    Spyscribbler: This sounds like it could be nifty, but I’m not connecting with it because there are no characters mentioned. It left me a bit cold, because the conflict is impersonal.

    Laceydiamond Redux: I agree this isn’t strong enough. It’s too vague – give us a character with a conflict.

    Alison: Too vague. Telling us the subgenre doesn’t tell us anything meaningful about your book. Instead, tell us about these wounded souls! (Everybody loves a wounded soul – the only thing better is two wounded souls! ๐Ÿ™‚ )

    Lesley Redux:
    1) Cross-dressing vampiress? Good! Falls in love? Vague! Sorry, but I’d call this a fail also. What’s the conflict? What gets in the way of the steamy, cross-dressin’, blood-suckin’ lovin’?
    2) Too vague again; sorry! We don’t know what the Order Nocturne is, or why it’s bad, so the conflict isn’t clear.

    Pomo Housewife:
    1) Pass! I like this one. However, the language is a little clunky. You might want to buff and polish a bit.
    2) Fail, I’m afraid. I’m just confused about what is going on.
    3) This is pretty good too, but a fail because I was again confused while reading it. Buff and polish (or blow-dry and style, if you prefer.)

    Laura Kramarsky: Ooh, a pass! No one expects beadmakers to get murderous, so I want to know more.

  33. Avatar Anonymous says:

    Paranormal Romeo and Juliet


  34. Sacrilege, treason, regicide: a disgraced heir can’t be precious about saving her nation.

  35. Avatar Hippolyta says:

    How I ended up sharing a one bathroomed house with 6 women, 4 dogs, 3 cats, assorted tropical fish and two fluffy yellow baby chicks.

  36. Avatar Anonymous says:

    What if you had only seven days to spend with the man of your dreams?
    What would you do?

  37. Avatar Alison says:

    Hope you don’t mind me giving this a second shot, but you really got me thinking!

    I can’t do it in 5 words – sorry – but I have increased the number of “wounded souls” LOL!

    “In the shadow of the Great War, four wounded souls must cross time to come together to solve a mystery and bring peace to their hearts!”

  38. Avatar Jennifer says:

    Cynical journalist meets 160-year-old ghost — an impossible relationship

  39. Girl gets sick healing others.

  40. Avatar Petrina says:

    Touch Hottie, find body.

  41. A Bosnian war crime survivor, pursued by her captors, escapes to the US to hunt down serial killers.

    Captors follow.

    OK. I know. Too many words.

  42. Avatar Just Nicki says:

    She wanted her memory back. He wanted Revenge.

  43. Has been TV star agrees to reality show as her life crumbles.

  44. Avatar HWJ says:

    Agatha Christie meets Cocktail. Great drinks, sexy female bartender, lots of dead bodies.

  45. Avatar Helen says:

    1. Set in the not-so-distant future, a virtual reality sex addict cop and a hacker team up to catch a cyber serial killer. Sci-fi

    2. Ten years after saving the world, former teen super hero bands together with former sidekicks to take care of some unfinished business. Think a Gen-X/Y, grittier Harry Potter. Post-YA Urban Fantasy

  46. Avatar Josh says:

    Insomniac security guard battles sentient dreams.

    (eh…six words, it’ll do)

  47. Avatar JDuncan says:

    Five words is so insanely hard to do unless you have good book/movie comparisons to go with.

    1. Sentient wormhole sends space salvager back to 1400’s Wales to rescue her father and change history.
    2. Old west sheriff and modern day FBI agent chase vampire into the afterlife to save the ghosts of all his victims.
    3. 14-year-old comic writer chases down evil fairies in the world of Fae to retrieve his prophetic comics and end the Fairy War.
    4. Demon hunter fights to close the gate to the battleground between the forces of Order and Chaos while dealing with the attraction to a warrioress from each side.
    5. A Social-worker-for-ghosts and a water-born PI fight the corrupt government of the half-submerged New York City of the future and discover the depths of NYC are being taken over by something not quite human.

  48. Avatar Angelle says:

    5 words? No problem.

    Indian Jones meets Bridget Jones.

  49. Avatar Chisem says:

    Attorney G.W. Chismโ€™s devotion to the letter of the law frees a psychotic killer fifteen years after Chism served as foremen on the jury that sent illiterate killer No Mercy Percy Kilbourne to Texasโ€™ infamous death row.

  50. Avatar DKWhite says:

    Peasant queen versus jealous lords.

    Or, as a full sentence:

    Peasant-turned-queen leads rebellion against usurping lords who want her dead.

  51. “There are over 300 living Americans who have floated weightless in outer space, but fewer than a dozen who’ve crawled along the deepest muddy bottom of the Mississippi River.”

    Five words! Pffft! It takes me more than five words to say “ouch.”

  52. Avatar Chisem says:

    When a drug-addled teenager turns the annual Alamo Day Parade into a bloodbath, the tragedy plunges minister LUKE OEDING and deputy sheriff NANCY NEFF into a deadly race to save Nancy’s daughter, CINDI, from the leader of a South Texas drug cult that practices human sacrifice.

  53. Avatar Karen Duvall says:

    This kind of reminds me of when Hemingway was challenged to write a short story in seven words or less. He didn’t hesitate:

    “Baby shoes for sale, never used.”

    Is that powerful or what? 8^)

  54. Avatar Emilie says:

    Would it really do that? The science facts behind movie magic.

  55. Okay, so it won’t be five, but close:

    Dragon-seeker turns soldier to save kingdom.

    It’s quite helpful to have to distill like this…makes the plot clearer, somehow.

  56. What’s the point of having a hero who doesn’t want to save the universe?

  57. Avatar Tammie says:

    Jo writes The Perfect Obit, can she live up to it?

  58. Avatar Anonymous says:

    Lone female FBI agent lost in the wilderness with a psychopath.

  59. Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys meet Charmed.

  60. Avatar Lara Chapman says:

    Stephanie Plum meets Repo Man.

  61. Wayward footballer gets aristocrat-ess makeover

  62. Avatar Conduit says:

    A former Belfast killer must return to his murderous past to silence the ghosts of his victims.

    (I’ve had to delete and rewrite that three times to get it right!)

  63. Avatar Anonymous says:

    Hook critiques by L’Anonymous (pass/fail):

    Fellow Anonymous 1:29AM: Sorry, but too vague to hook me. Note your hook would apply equally well to Tanith Lee’s A Bed of Earth.

    Jennifer: This is a bit too thin to hook me – do they get together? Is that the conflict? It isn’t totally clear what the book is about.

    Hippolyta: Sounds fun, but what’s the conflict? This hook makes your novel sound a bit too much like “What I did for summer vacation” essays. Try to imply what the story is about.

    Fellow Anonymous 4:32 AM: Cheat! That was two sentences! ๐Ÿ˜€ This isn’t bad, but it doesn’t hook me because it doesn’t say what the story is about; it’s just a hypothetical question.

    Alison Redux: Yay! More wounded souls! And the hint about crossing time is intriguing. However, “mystery” and “peace” are still too vague. Be specific about what the conflict in the story is.

    Robert Henshaw: Hmm, pretty good – very good for just five words. I’ll call this a pass!

    Petrina: Pretty good except for the fact that I’m confused. Is the body the Hottie’s, or a dead body?

    Josephine Damian: Cheat! Two sentences! ๐Ÿ˜€ This is pretty good, but I don’t see the connection between her hunting serial criminals and her past. I’ll call this a fail because I’m not sure what the central conflict is.

    Tammie: Put a semi-colon in there instead of a comma, and that’s a definite pass! Very intriguing hook.

    Just Nicki: Cheat! Two sentences! ๐Ÿ˜€ A bit too vague to hook me; I don’t see the connection between the two sentences, so I’m unclear on what your central conflict is. (BTW, should revenge really be capitalised?)

    Dara Edmondson: Good elements but I don’t know what the central conflict is. As is, this is just a list of events and we have no reason to empathise with the has-been.

    HWJ: Cheat! Two sentences! ๐Ÿ˜€ You could get rid of the first sentence, actually. I’ll call this a fail despite some intriguing elements, just because there’s little to hint at what the central conflict is except your comparison to Agatha Christie’s works.

    1) Chop the “Set in the not-so-distant future” cliche, and I’ll call this a pass. (Cyber serial killers and a genuine virtual reality don’t strike me as realistic for the “not-so-distant future” anyway; the first in particular seems a pretty remote possibility.)
    2) Fail because it’s too vague about the central conflict and – with the reference to Harry Potter – it sounds like fanfiction, i.e. derivative.

    Lara Chapman: Sorry, but this fails for me because I don’t know your references well enough to understand what you’re trying to describe.

    Josh: Ooh, definite pass. That’s sounds pretty awesome!

    1) I’ll call it a pass with reservations. How did a spacefarer’s father wind up in the 1400s? Remember the reader doesn’t know anything about the book except what you say here – so things that seem like logic problems (but aren’t, in the novel) pop up distressingly easily.
    2) Sorry, but a fail because I don’t understand why they would want to.
    3) Prophetic comic books? Definite pass! That sounds awesome; it’s a very fresh and funny idea.
    4) Sorry, but a fail because you cast the “two babes” problem as your central conflict (and I have so little sympathy for men who can’t decide which hottie to chase; it’s not a particularly gripping conflict) instead of saying why it’s important for the gate to be closed.
    5) Sorry again, but you lost me on “something”. You were overly specific before that and too vague there about what the main conflict is.

    Angelle: Sorry, but a fail because I can’t see how that mix would work. These “[X] meets [Y]” hooks don’t tend to grab me because they’re vague about what – specifically – is in your book. Who are your characters? Why are they interesting? What’s the novel’s central conflict?

    Chisem: Sorry, but a fail because there’s too much detail and yet too little information about the central conflict. Does the killer come after Chism? Probably, but you don’t mention it. You’ve given us the setup – what’s the story about?

    1) This doesn’t hook me because the characters are too bland and the conflict seems a bit weak (as you’ve stated it here.)
    2) This is a lot better, but you could leave off “who want her dead.” I still find the hook less than gripping; you might try to zip up your description of the heroine. The peasant-turned-queen is your most intriguing element, but it’s glossed over.

    Dwight’s Writing Manifesto: A definite pass, because that’s an awesome hook, but with reservations because I don’t know what the story is about. Still, the weirdness of someone wanting to crawl the bottom of the Mississippi has me very intrigued!

    Chisem Redux: Too much detail again, but you do a good job of capturing the central conflict. How about this?
    A minister and a sheriff race to save the sheriff’s daughter from the leader of a South Texas drug cult that practices human sacrifice.

    Emilie: Cheat! Two sentences! ๐Ÿ˜€ This would be fine for non-fiction, but it’s a bit bland.

    Calenhiril: Sorry, but a fail because the character doesn’t stand out and the central conflict isn’t really outlined – yes, he has to save the kingdom, but why? I.e. Why would we readers – snug on our sofas – empathise with this fellow? Why should we care about his quest?

    WandereringRay: I’m sorry, but answering that question to myself does not make me want to read your novel. I think hypothetical questions don’t really work as hooks because they say nothing concrete about the novel itself. Who are your characters? What makes them interesting? What trouble do they get themselves into?

    Fellow Anonymous 12:52 PM: This is good, in that you get the conflict in very well, but I’m not hooked because this sounds like a fairly standard variation on a common plot. What makes your heroine or this struggle particularly intriguing? I think this hook would be a pass if there was one thing in it that struck me as out of the ordinary, as far as plots/characters go.

    Heather Janes: I am sorry, but based on this, I don’t know a thing about your book. Who are your characters? Why are they interesting? What sort of trouble do they get themselves into?

    Conduit: Ooh, a pass! This sounds very nifty, although I’m confused whether there’s any time travelling involved when you say he “must return to his … past”.

    Allison Rushby: Sorry, but a fail because I don’t see what the central conflict is. Nifty-sounding juxtaposition of characters, however!

  64. Avatar Michelle says:

    Yeah, I can’t figure out how to do five words. Any ideas on how to change this (shortened!) version of my short pitch to get to five words is most welcome ๐Ÿ™‚

    She’s got secrets, he’s out to get them: too bad they didn’t introduce themselves before their scorching-hot one night stand.

  65. Avatar Anonymous says:

    Death surrounds her…does his detective badge put you at ease?


  66. Avatar Conduit says:

    L’Anonymous Judge – Hmm, you’ve got a point, there. No, there’s no time travel, but I see how you could get that impression. Rewording is in order. Thanks! ๐Ÿ™‚

  67. Avatar Chisem says:

    Ms/Mr L’Anon
    Thank you for taking the time to register your thoughts on the two suggestions I made. I liked what you did with the drug cult suggestion.

    I would appreciate any suggestions you might have on the other. Most comment as you do. What happens between Chism and the killer? He does come after the attorney along with the other eleven jurors; except, the now highly educated killer is executing the first born of the jurors.

    I have no pride, and will take all the help I can get. Any suggestions?


  68. Avatar Chisem says:

    PS You won’t be our beloved Ms Snark, would you?

  69. I’m sorry, but answering that question to myself does not make me want to read your novel. I think hypothetical questions don’t really work as hooks because they say nothing concrete about the novel itself. Who are your characters? What makes them interesting? What trouble do they get themselves into?

    *chuckles* Thanks Anon.

    Unfortunately answering those questions takes up a heck of a lot more than 5 words. *looks* Even at my current best I’m 173 words over the limit. ๐Ÿ˜€ Thankfully that’s a bit more acceptable as actual hooks go and all those questions are hopefully answered.

    Appreciate you taking the time to look at these!


  70. Maddie thought life was out to get her. Will a child teach her that she is her own worst enemy?

  71. Hmmm. Can I try an extra word, please?

    Wayward footballer gets unwanted aristocrat-ess makeover.

    Thanks for the interesting exercise!

  72. Avatar Anonymous says:

    Hook Critiques by L’Anonymous (pass/fail):

    Michelle: Sorry, but I’m a bit confused by this. I don’t see how he could not know her name if he’s out to get her secrets. It obviously makes sense in the novel, but it doesn’t really here. Also, I’d be more likely to become intrigued if I knew why her secrets are valuable. As for trimming words, “hot” could be omitted, since that’s implied by “scorching”.

    Zee: I am sorry, but this confused me also. Is Death wearing the detective badge? If so, that helps things make sense, but if not, I’m at sea as to what is being implied here. (However, Death wearing a detective badge would get an enthusiastic pass from me; if that’s your meaning, work a bit harder to get it across to the reader, because it is a great idea.)

    Chisem Redux: It sounds like your conflict is Chism trying to fix the mess he unwittingly made and your hook is the killer executing first-borns of his jurors. The hook is creepy and nice; the conflict has great potential to get audience empathy because we all know what it’s like to screw up. How about:
    An attorney’s devotion to the letter of the law frees the killer he helped imprison fifteen years ago, but the killer has not forgiven him.
    PS – No, I’m not Miss Snark. If I were, you’d all be bleeding far worse than this! ๐Ÿ˜€

    Desperate Writer: Cheat! Two sentences! ๐Ÿ˜€ I don’t see the connection between the two sentences, so I’m unsure of what the conflict is. Sorry, but this doesn’t hook me.

    Allison Rushby: Ooh, that one word makes an enormous difference. Now you’re hinting at the conflict effectively. I assume this is a fluffy, fun book, so I’d give this a pass now. Nice work!

  73. Avatar Michelle says:

    Thanks Anon! How about this – my original short version that I hacked up for this exercise. Is it still unclear? Thanks again, this is fun. ๐Ÿ™‚

    She’s the secret daughter of a modern-day Bonnie and Clyde. He’s the playboy publisher determined to sell her story to the world. Too bad they didn’t introduce themselves before indulging in that unforgettable one-night-stand…

  74. Avatar Brandy says:

    Stranded with an Italian Lure

  75. Avatar Tammie says:

    Hey thanks a bunch – this was fun!

  76. Take #2 (now that I’m at home and actually have access to my computer ๐Ÿ˜€ ) It’s not five words, but it is one sentence.

    Sergeant L.C. Amalin was supposed to Fade when her Mate died, but something went horribly wrong.

  77. Avatar Diane says:

    Condo diva’s diary exposes neighbors’ foibles.

  78. Avatar Diane says:

    The real truth about Hanford.

  79. Avatar Brandy says:

    In one sentence

    A prearranged marriage dosn’t help the heroine when stranded on a deserted island with an Italian Lure, the love of her life.

  80. Avatar Jennifer Brassel says:

    Further to:
    Cynical journalist meets 160yo ghost — an impossible relationship …

    Cynical journalist cannot help falling in love with 160yo ghost — they can see each other, hear each other but cannot touch — only sorcery can solve an impossible situation.

  81. Avatar JDuncan says:

    Ok, let’s see if this works if I’m more specific.

    A social worker who helps the ghosts of the half-submerged Manhatten of the future, teams up with a water-born PI to fight the corrupt city government who wishes to rid New York of the mermaids who are making its depths their new home.

  82. Avatar JDuncan says:

    Chick-lit girl in zombie slugfest or “How I got brains on my Prada.”

    (credit to my wife for this gem. I thought it was hilarious)

  83. Avatar Petrina says:

    Dear L’Anonymous,
    Thanks so much for your insightful reviews…the body is a dead body. The Hottie and heroine team up to find the killer and the reason behind the killing.

    So…I’ll try again

    Magic fingers discover love and murder.


  84. Avatar Anonymous says:

    Love, Power, and water demons.

    -Christine, Maryland

  85. Avatar Chisem says:

    Ms/Mr L’Anon
    Thanks for the help on Chism. I’m glad you like the hook. The original hook, in my mind, is the fact that Chism sent an obese village idiot to jail, who studied hard for fifteen years and came out a literary genius when he discovered he was dyslexic, not dumb.

    Guess I just want too many elements in the hook.

    Yours has been a great help. I believe you’ve positioned me to get attention when next I query.

    Many thanks,


  86. Avatar Anonymous says:

    Hook critiques by L’Anonymous (pass/fail):

    Michelle Redux: That makes much more sense and I do like it!

    Brandy: Sorry; I don’t know what a “Lure” is, so this is a fail for me.

    WandererInGray Redux: I don’t know what it means to “Fade”, so I’m sorry, but I’m afraid this doesn’t work for me. Also, it’s vague to say “something went horribly wrong.” Try to add some specifics.

    Jennifer Brassel Redux: Sorry, but this still fails for me because there’s a lot of setup details that aren’t necessary and then you end on a vague note. How about:
    A journalist falls in love with a ghost and tries to steal her back from the afterlife using sorcery.

    1) It sounds like you have some juicy plot elements, but this fails for me because it gives no clue to the central conflict. This sounds like the setup for the story, rather than the story itself. Does the diva’s exposure then cause havoc?
    2) I’m sorry, but this is a fail because I don’t know who or what Hanford is, or why I should care about the him/it or the truth thereof. The vagueness of the hook is the real problem; there’s nothing there for my brain to latch onto.

    Brandy Redux: Sorry, but this is still a fail for me because I still don’t know what a Lure is. Also, the logic here seems a bit odd, in that there’s no reason why a prearranged marriage is going to help anyone while stranded on an island, regardless of the challenges he or she faces there. I think the problem is that you’re skirting the central conflict, which is (I presume): Heroine faces temptation: love of her life or nicely-arranged life? She’s choosing between two things she wants, so that’s the conflict you want to outline clearly.

    JDuncan Redux:
    1) This is quite nice as it is, and I’ll give it a pass for sheer awesomeness of elements (mermaids in New York? Squeal!), but you might consider cutting a few details to make the sentence “hook” better. How about:
    A PI and a social worker for ghosts try to save the mermaids colonizing half-submerged Manhattan.
    2) “How I got brains on my Prada” is awesome. Definite pass for that version! You might consider a cheat to slip the zombies in, like:
    Zombies On Rodeo Drive: How I Got Brains On My Prada

    Petrina Redux: Sorry, but I still find that too vague. I liked your first version better; it just needed a few more words to clarify what was going on. This version doesn’t introduce any characters and thus doesn’t hint at a conflict for anyone to solve.

    Christine of Maryland: I am sorry, but this doesn’t hook me because it’s too vague. The water demons are very cool, but there’s no hint of what the novel’s central conflict is going to be (very hard to do when you’re sticking to five words, I know.) The hook would probably be improved by introducing a character also, as it gives the reader someone to empathise with when you then outline the trouble that person gets into.

    Jennifer: I’ll pass this! The beginning is a bit convoluted but adding “–again” at the end worked beautifully! You don’t outline a conflict exactly, but you do make this sound like an interesting story, which is all that matters.

  87. Avatar Anonymous says:

    Dear Bookends Hookers,

    L’Anonymous thanks all those who graciously refrained from flaming me for my overweening gall. Double thanks, of course, to all the kind souls who let me know they appreciated my efforts!

    To anyone who was miffed, please take all my comments with a house-brick sized grain of salt – I’m an unpublished writer also. Who knows if an agent would agree with my assessment of any of these hooks?

    And now, may I respectfully call “Uncle”? ๐Ÿ™‚ This has been fun, but if I keep doing it for much longer, it won’t be fun anymore! Feel free to harangue me in private over at OxyJen


  88. Avatar Jennifer says:

    When a repulsive geniusโ€™s love for his Good Samaritan makes him come out of hiding to repent his sins, his madness causes her to become a criminal–again.

  89. Avatar Diane says:

    The true story behind the Hanford Nuclear Reservation litigation

  90. that was fab – I learned heaps from reading the comments to others as well as my own.

    thank you!

  91. Avatar AstonWest says:

    Space pirate becomes reluctant hero

  92. Avatar Anonymous says:

    Hi Jessica:

    “Some people deserve to die.”