Since SCBWI registration opens today (woot!) and I'm going (double woot!) and I might actually be talking to agents there (triple woot! or gulp!) I asked my friend if she had any advice about hooks. And she started by giving me a homework assignment. I'm supposed to start by writing hooks/loglines for books that I enjoy. That way I'll get a feel for what they're supposed to be, and I can hopefully come upon mine more easily.
So, rather than keep all this learning to myself, I thought I would share it here...
What is a hook/logline?
A hook is one sentence (maybe two, but the key is to keep it short) that explains what your novel is about and draws the reader in or grabs their attention - it literally "hooks" them. (Loglines are what they call them in movie scripts.)
To give an example, here's a logline for a classic movie (which started as a book):
After a twister transports a lonely Kansas farm girl to a magical land, she sets out on a dangerous journey to find a wizard with the power to send her home.(Source)
Sound familiar? What about this one:
A girl travels to a new land where she kills the first person she meets and then teams up with a bunch of strangers to kill again.
Here's the crazy thing: they're both describing the same movie. The Wizard of OZ. The first hook sounds like a fantasy full of whimsy and surprise, whereas the second sounds much darker, and paints Dorothy as a definite psychopath. It's all about how you want to represent your book.
So I started thinking about some of my favorite books. And I wrote a few hooks. And maybe they're awful. But here they are, for
A girl moves to a rainy city and starts dating the hottest guy in school, only to end up being hunted by one of the deadliest creatures alive.
When the school's biggest druggie asks her to pee in a cup to avoid getting busted, a former goodie-two-shoes catches herself falling for the wrong guy.
A girl is living the worst day of her life over and over again - the day she dies.
After nearly destroying her high school on prom night, a teen witch is sent to a boarding school containing snarky faeries, shapeshifters, one total hottie, and a series of bloody mysteries that could leave students dead.
Terrified about what awaits him at the end of the story, a man with undiagnosed anxiety disorder does everything in his power to keep intruders away.
I'm still not sure what I would say if I met an agent on the street today. (Honestly, it would probably just be "hi." If I met them at a conference, that's when I might pitch. Let's not be crazy stalkers here, people.) How do you even start that conversation? "Hi, I'm Heather, let me tell you about my book?" But I do feel like this exercise in researching and writing hooks has gotten me very close to finding my own. Hopefully with a little more time I'll find the perfect hook that will land me the right agent - or at least get someone to read my pages.
For more on hooks, check out: