The Page a Day Writers Group

Posts Tagged ‘hook lines

At my editor’s suggestion, I’ve bumped a scene from way back around chapter 20 to the very front of the book. She’s right, it is a stellar opening line and much more effectively sets the scope for the entire adventure in Tattoo. But that leaves me with scads of cutting, pasting, rewriting and reimagining to do. I’ve so far managed to condense about 5 chapters into two, heeding my keywords “short, sharp and brutal.”  I want to incite to leave readers feel strung out and remembering their own very awkward and heartwrenching breakups but plunging immediately into an emotional maelstrom doesn’t work in the opening position. More shuffling and sorting required.

On top of it all, I’m juggling two main storylines for one character. Because Soryk/ah is a Trader and spends time as both a woman and a man (neither of whom has much awareness of the other), each has her/his own life with its own complications and confusions. Getting confused? So am I.

I’ve gone round and round, looking at it from all angles to pinpoint the inciting incident for each of Soryk/ah’s genders. What specific event sets the story in motion? Do they have the same motivations, the same goals and desires? Do those feelings and ambitions counter or support the other gender? All of which leaves me feeling like I’m juggling a big ball of snakes.

Years of writing has taught me one vital lesson, and that’s the importance of brooding. Stewing, fermenting, bubbling, gestating. You get the idea. I see my creative mind as a deluxe stovetop with six flaring gas burners. Some of the pots and pans are filled with rich, creamy succulence, boiling and steaming, carmelizing and crackling away. Those are the stories I’m most excited about. There’s always a giant soup pot or two on the back burner, simmering over a low flame, it’s flavors and elements breaking down, interacting, creating new flavors and textures. When I feel stuck, I turn down the flame, pop a lid over the whole kit and caboodle and let it work itself out. This means working on other, less troublesome parts of the story, all the while, the soup pot bubbles.

Ultimately, I trust that my brain’s conduits to these characters’ lives will untangle themselves and by some mysterious alchemy, the mishmash of ingredients I’ve thrown together will be transformed into something so ultimately delicious, it leaves us all begging for another helping.

I think you may have to let this entry simmer in your own pot until my ramblings begin to make sense. I’ve been writing in between bubble-blowing breaks for the boy in the bath, who has informed me that he’s going to stay in the tub until midnight.

Anyway, here are two extrememly helpful links to discussion about the inciting incident and writing gotcha-grabber opening scenes/chapters.

http://www.floggingthequill.com/flogging_the_quill/2006/02/your_inciting_i.html

http://www.writersdigest.com/article/hooked-excerpt

Kirsten Imani Kasai

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Some call it the elevator pitch; others know it as the log line or hook line.  It’s that all-important summary, the one every novelist — published and unpublished — is suppose to rattle off at the drop of a hat.

All of us struggle to write it, memorize it and practice saying it. Those few words are designed to catch an agent’s attention, hoping she’ll say: “Wow that’s great. I want to hear more.”

I’ve been working and reworking mine for months. And at the last meeting of our writers group, one of our members read it, crossed out 13 words and improved it exponentially. Thank you Trish.

Still I toil over this brief recap of a story that’s taken me 90,000 words to tell. In a recent Writer’s Digest interview, novelist James Patterson emphasizes the same point. He tells the interviewer, “You’ve got to get a story where if you tell it to somebody in a paragraph, they’ll go. ‘Tell me more.’ And when you start to write it, they continue to want to read more. And if you don’t, it won’t work.”

Think of an elevator pitch as a concise, carefully crafted and well-practiced synopsis of your work of fiction or nonfiction. You need to be able to recite it seamlessly in about 30 seconds — the time it takes to ride up an elevator.

The cold facts are — if you can’t pitch your novel in 30 seconds then you’re taking too long. And if you can’t relate the plot of your novel in one short paragraph (three or four sentences at the most) then you’re using too many words. Head back to the drawing board to rework it. This is a bare-bones assignment. Cut out the fluff.

Re-read your elevator pitch. Does it:

1) Tell what the book is about.
2) Clearly state what the problem is.
3) Outline the goal of the protagonist.
4) State opposition (conflict/action) to the stated goal.

If not, get back to work. Those few words may be the hardest you’ve ever written. We all know it takes more time to write brief and concise. Like Mark Twain once said “I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.”

EXTRA INFO: At the Writers Store website, Jonathan Treisman offers some great ideas for writing loglines that sell. Visit http://www.writersstore.com/article.php?articles_id=231 for more ideas.

— Claire Yezbak Fadden


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The Page a Day Writers Group is a diverse collection of wonderful writers based in San Diego, CA. We've been meeting monthly since 2004. Our primary function is in-depth writing critique, marketing and brainstorming, but there's usually some wine, chocolate and ribaldry involved too. We write fantasy, humor, literary fiction, nonfiction, romance, thrillers and YA. Join us on our journeys to publication and the wonderland beyond!

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