July 28th, 2009
Welcome to Week 3 of the Teen Author Challenge!
With your fresh, wow-worthy story idea solidly in place, we’re going to talk about finding the key hooks in your story that you can build on.
Exclusive TAC Quote of the Week
Teen Author Challenge, Week 3
When you’re pitching a new book–whether you’ve been published previously or this is your first time submitting–you need to be able to describe the most marketable elements of your story clearly and succinctly. One of the easiest ways to accomplish this is to make sure that your blurb (think back cover blurb on a book) highlights the key hooks in your story.
What are hooks? Hooks are simply the easy-to-recognize, tried-and-true elements that make us care about the story. Here are a variety of examples to show you what I mean.
– Good vs. evil
The list goes on and on. Some hooks are character-based (e.g. accepting yourself), some are plot-based (e.g. the underdog coming out on top), and some are world-based (e.g. your unique paranormal mythos). The key is that they’re all instantly recognizable and make people immediately grasp why they should care about your story.
For instance, I’m a big fan of romance, so that’s a hook I’m actively looking for in blurbs. I also love any story where the underdog comes out on top and stories about people getting a second chance at life. Those hooks resonate with me as a reader. If you can weave those elements into your blurb, I’m going to be much more inclined to read the book.
And just in case you’re wondering, you don’t have to use a particular hook term in your blurb. Describing the situation in a way where I can clearly see that the hero or heroine is the underdog is going to hook me without you having to say “And hey, look over here! This character? This guy is the underdog!”
Agents and editors have a knack for quickly identifying the hooks in a potential acquisition. In fact, my own editor (the fabulous Elizabeth Law who will be featured here tomorrow!) and I had a chat recently about a new book I’d just pitched. I gave her the basic blurb and she responded by saying “I like the X and Y hooks there” and then went on to discuss some of the finer points of the story as I’d described it. Hooks are kind of like a shorthand between you and your agent/editor and, ultimately, your reader. It shows that you understand what makes a story compelling and can articulate that in a few simple words.
Let’s take a popular book and see what kinds of hooks we can find. The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot was one of the books that inspired me to write empowering YA, so I’m going to use that as an example. Just off the top of my head, I can come up with three major hooks:
– Glamour and glitz (the royal world of Genovia)
Let’s try another one. Here are a few key hooks from Alyson Noel‘s Evermore:
– Paranormal mythos (Ever’s psychic abilities)
Are there more hooks in these stories than the ones I’ve noted here? Absolutely. If you dig deep enough you can sometimes uncover half a dozen or more hooks all deftly woven into the fabric of the stories you love most. But often, there are a few key hooks that really stand out. Those are the meat and potatoes (or the black beans and rice for you vegetarians out there) of your story.
Grab your Teen Author Challenge notebook and jot down all the hooks you have in your story. If you’re not sure if something qualifies as a hook, write it down anyway. There are no hard and fast rules about what constitutes a hook. And I promise, this isn’t a graded assignment.
Today we’re doing an extra special entry for the contest since we’re nearing month-end. Here’s how to get bonus entries for the TAC monthly contest:
– Comment on today’s post (+1 entry)
I’ll announce the first monthly winner on Monday. Go forth and be creative!
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