What is a hook?
Got it? Let’s look at our first sentence from where we left off:
Tommy’s the youngest of three brothers.
1. Hooks–what not to do?
Remember, back in the day, there were those stupid advertisements that began with, “SEX! Now that we have your attention, let’s talk about car insurance!”
Yeah. Don’t do that. I’ve seen queries that began with, “Stacy isn’t your typical princess. In fact, she’s not a princess at all.” Then the query talks about how Stacy is a divorced housewife struggling to make ends meet. What I thought was a fairy re-telling turned into a contemporary. See how misleading it is to start with such a deceptive hook?
In other words, don’t lie with your hook.
2. Hooks–what do you do?
Hooks should give some insight into what your book will be about. Even better if they can
(a) tell us something unique about your MC,
(b) tell us something about the conflict, or
(c) tell us something unique about your premise.
Examples of successful hooks
When Cate Benson was twelve, her sister died. Two hours after the funeral, they picked up Violet’s replacement, and the family made it home in time for dinner and a game of cards.
She had the talent, she had the drive, and she had the opportunity. Only one thing stood between Penelope Sparrow and the dance career of her dreams: her imperfect body.
Nice! This one does (b)–tells us something about the conflict.
Finally, let’s look at Livia Blackburne’s hook for MIDNIGHT THIEF
To Kyra, high walls and locked doors are not obstacles, but invitations
Ohhhhh yeah. This one lures the reader in with (a) character.
Hooking my fake query
I’m just going to totally brainstorm and come up with at least ten different hooks:
2. Goats are good at grazing, not brawling!
3. Tommy the goat never expected to face a troll.
4. Standing tall was never Tommy’s forte.
5. Tommy may be the only adult goat who hasn’t grown his horns.
6. Tommy never thought he’d face fires, starvation, and a sadistic troll.
7. Don’t mess with a goat’s kid.
8. Trolls are a nasty business. Well, at least if you’re a goat.
9. Despite standing closest to the ground, Tommy tends to graze the grass last.
10. Tiny Tommy, they call him. He’s closer to a cat’s size than a goat.
Which do you like? I think I favor #10–it gives a sense of character and leads right into the next paragraph.
With that, here’s our new query:
Tiny Tommy, they call him. He’s closer to a cat’s size than a goat. He’s the youngest of three goat brothers. And the smallest. And the weakest. It seems maturity happened to them, but not him. He’s about the same size he was in junior high. Anyway. Somehow, for some crazy reason, he stumbled upon a girl who’d marry him. Now he’s a daddy. It’s pretty cool. The kid’s super cute and all.
But then Bibledy-Basty McFladigan had to come along and incinerate their meadow. Yeah, what a jerk. It was kind of not cool. Okay, so really not cool because now his family and village might starve. And die. Lame.
But there’s another meadow. Okay, so it’s pretty far away, and you have to cross mountains and snake-filled rivers and barren landscapes. Oh, and his brother’s refuse to help. But it’s gotta be done, so Tommy inspires his older brothers and his village to follow him. Just as they scale the bridge, Bibbledy-Basty arrives with Tommy’s wife, bound and gagged. Totally not cool. So now, Tommy may have to forfeit the green meadows. Oh, and his wife. Or else he’s going to have to fight that big, rather terrifying, creepy, green-tinted troll dude to the death.
Cool? Good. Now, there’s just one more thing to cover before we call it quits. See you next time!