Friday, November 30, 2007

One More Hook

All right, thanks largely to Heather (sorry, I don't have a link!) and Karen, I've got a splendiferous new version of my hook to share. This one really is a lot tighter and gets to the point better. Thanks so much to everyone who has offered feedback during this whole (long) process!
Nine years have passed since the Dead ended civilization. Darrell Williams was once a respected black doctor in a rural white town, but now he is one of the few survivors in a countryside of roving monsters and encroaching wilderness. When his house is stormed by his undead neighbors, he escapes with his daughter, Lela, to find asylum with refugees in an electronics factory many miles downriver.

Yet something about the world has changed. The normally-predictable Dead are suddenly erratic and aggressive, and seem to have an unusual interest in Darrell’s family. Four-year-old Lela discovers clues to the twisted logic that drives them -- but then she disappears. Darrell is left to search for answers and his daughter with only the help of strangers in a hostile, ruined world.

4 comments:

Karen Mahoney said...

This is a great improvement! Good work. :)

I would still consider removing "many miles downriver" from the end of para.1. I'd also condsider just saying: "Darrell is left to search for his daughter with only the help of strangers in a hostile world."

Wow, this hook-writing is HARD! :)

heather said...

You want more feedback, right? Hang on, because I’m going to be very honest.

You are not focusing on the selling point of your book. What makes your book unique? From what I’ve gathered it’s the Dead and how Darrell relates to them… You need to get there much faster.

Nine years have passed since the Dead ended civilization.

This is not a good enough hook. We have no idea with this first line who the Dead are, and that’s a problem.


Darrell Williams was once a respected black doctor in a rural white town, but now he is one of the few survivors in a countryside of roving monsters and encroaching wilderness.

This is way too wordy. Do we need to know that he WAS ONCE (not currently) a well respected black doctor in a white community? What does this have to do with the current story? You might think it shows character, but it’s not going to entice an agent to read it.

You could say the same thing in half as many words. Use your words for what the story IS, not back story.

When his house is stormed by his undead neighbors, he escapes with his daughter, Lela, to find asylum with refugees in an electronics factory many miles downriver.

Again, too wordy. For instance, do we need to know that it’s an “electronics factory many miles downriver” when “factory” will do?

This is where the meat should be…

Yet something about the world has changed. Obviously the world has changed. Cut this sentence entirely.

The normally-predictable Dead are suddenly erratic and aggressive, and seem to have an unusual interest in Darrell’s family.

“normally predictable”?! Didn’t you say that they caused the apocalypse, basically? And then they’re predictable. THIS is what you should be discussing. THIS is what makes your story unique.

Christopher M. Park said...

Thanks, Karen! And yes, you're right about the removing "many miles downriver." Done. I do prefer the pattern of my final sentence as-is for now, though. Just a personal style thing, I suppose.

Christopher M. Park said...

Heather, your honesty is very much appreciated. To respond to your points:

This is not a good enough hook. We have no idea with this first line who the Dead are, and that’s a problem.

The specific nature of the Dead doesn't seem terribly important to me from a hook point of view -- I think it's pretty clear that they are undead of some variety just from their name. But, your point that this intro is not interesting enough is well taken. The point of "nine years have passed" was supposed to be a differentiator between my book and most other zombie stories. Mostly those take place shortly after the apocalpse, when things are still crazy. Mine takes place much later, when a new equilibrium has been reached. Since that wasn't clear, I've changed the opener (see my next post with the revised hook).

Do we need to know that he WAS ONCE (not currently) a well respected black doctor in a white community? What does this have to do with the current story? You might think it shows character, but it’s not going to entice an agent to read it.

Well, I suppose this was a phrasing problem again, making this seem like backstory when it isn't. The fact that he's a doctor, and that he's black, are both crucial not only to his identity, but to the story as a whole (first 50 pages included). I've reworded, however, to make this shorter and to make it more obviously relevant to the present.

Again, too wordy. For instance, do we need to know that it’s an “electronics factory many miles downriver” when “factory” will do?

Well, I'll grant you the "many miles downriver" part. But I think the fact that it is an electronics factory adds a bit of character -- I'm not planning to strip out every adjective for the sake of brevity. Anyhow, I do think stripping out that part is a definite improvement.

Yet something about the world has changed. Obviously the world has changed. Cut this sentence entirely.

Ah, no, that was actually supposed to be an important point -- the world has changed again. The equilibrium that was there is suddenly messed up, and that's a big part of the genesis of the story. I've elaborated in the new hook, to make that more clear (especially to the skimming reader). That also flows right into your comment about "normally-predictable." I've reworked that whole little bit to be a lot more clear, I think.

Anyhow, thanks again for your feedback! You're definitely making huge improvements to my stuff.