Loglines – Setting The Story Hook

hook the reader

It’s soon time for me to pitch my first novel to agents. In today’s fast-paced and overheated novel world, you realistically have about five seconds to capture an agent’s attention – not five pages, or one page, or even five paragraphs. Five seconds. That’s one sentence. One idea, one concept. One chance.

That’s the hook. The logline, they call it in the movie biz. And right now I am learning everything I can about putting together a good one. Let me share some of my research with you as I go.

25 words or less. The best loglines, so they say, are 17 words. Short, snappy, punchy in the extreme. Every single word must count, must ring. The logline is the ultimate reduction, the ultimate poetry.

What’s in a hook line, a logline? Simple – your good guy, your bad guy, and the conflict between them. But no, it’s not that simple. You need to add one more thing. Your logline has to have emotion.

In 25 words or less, you have to make your audience care about the good guy, and maybe even hate the bad guy. You have to put them on edge, or light up their curiosity, or make them fall in love, or get them scared. Emotion, that’s the key. Hook lines are far different than a plot summary. They are meant to go straight to the heart.

Don’t name your characters, that wastes words. Describe them. Your protagonist is a baker, or a student, or a swordslinger. Then give them an adjective – a reluctant baker, a fearful student, a diminutive swordslinger. One word about their profession or central trait, and one adjective. Do the same for the villain, and you’ve brought them both to life in four words or so.

Okay, so you have the good guy and the bad guy. Now put something between them. The conflict. The big thing your protagonist has to accomplish. The unique thrust of your story. The thing that makes it stand out from all the others, the thing that makes it shine. Describe the battle to be fought or the treasure to be won or the evil to be stopped in as few highly-charged words as humanly possible. Note I said, ‘or’. No room for extravagance here. Choose only one, only the central theme of your story. Then polish it till it shines.

There you have it. The beginnings of a great hook, a great logline, to capture someone’s attention and make them ask for more. If you have room within the 25 words, dress it up a little. Add some urgency. Add some of your story’s originality. Make it even more memorable.

Where can you use your hook? That’s easy – everywhere. As the first line in your query letters to agents and, eventually, publishers. In the elevator. At the conference table, the dinner table, the bar. Whenever somebody asks you what your book is about, the hook is what you give them. Then, once they’re hooked, you can reel them in with your pitch. (More about that one later.)

I found a couple of sites worth looking at for more about loglines. They focus on the film/script genre, but the advice is identical for novels, too. Check out How To Write Better Loglines, and 10 Tips For Writing Loglines.

Now get busy. Once you have a great hook, drop it in the comments section. I’d love to see it.

What’s that? Oh, you want to know what I’ve come up with? Thanks for asking. It’s still a work in progress, of course, but how about this?

A hotheaded massage therapist risks losing his friends, his profession, and his sanity to stop a killer nurse who is tired of running.

You can check out an excerpt for this novel here.

Published in: on May 31, 2013 at 5:13 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , , ,

Massage Therapy Case Study – Everybody Is Different

different berry

We’ll call her Nancy. A wonderful woman, fit and healthy, a steady client who knew the value of massage therapy as a regular part of her lifestyle. I was able to help her with a number of challenges over the years – car accidents, tennis elbow, a fall from her bicycle – but over and over I kept returning to what I saw as a glaring problem in Nancy’s body.

She had a hunch. No, not a brilliant idea, although Nancy was full of those. I don’t even mean the one-shoulder hump of pronounced scoliosis. Nancy’s body just insisted on carrying her head forward and her shoulders in, producing a characteristic hunch at the nape of her neck. It struck me every time I assessed her posture from the side. To my eyes her posture just kept saying, fix me.

We’ve all seen this in our practice. It can be the kind of stubborn condition that makes a therapist want to slap the patient into a medieval rack and start cranking. Or put a knee between their scapulas and pull on their arms until they straighten the heck up. But such techniques are frowned upon in polite circles, so I did the next best thing. Neuromuscular technique, deep and specific both front and back to lengthen the musculature and reset the tension. Myofascial release for chest and anterior neck and posterior fascia. Facet joint work. Manual traction. Over the years I threw everything I knew at it, and a few techniques that haven’t been officially invented yet. Nothing. Nada. Nyet. Nancy’s posture didn’t budge. It was a professional irritation.

Since I was a travelling therapist, all this was taking place in her living room. One day I looked over at the mantelpiece and asked, “Is that what I think it is?” Nancy replied, “Why yes, I just found it the other day.” Sitting in a gilt metal frame was a photo of a nice woman in three-quarter profile. She was dressed in some sort of 1940’s wartime uniform. She had exactly the same hunched neck posture as Nancy. Her eyes, too.

It was her mother, of course. At that moment I forgot about trying to fix Nancy’s posture. It was built into her very genetics. And did I mention that Nancy wasn’t experiencing any actual discomfort from it? Her mother had lived a long and happy life with exactly the same look. Nancy’s posture was, arguably, not even broken.

That’s when I really got that everybody – every body – is different. There is no one perfect posture. No ideal shape and form to measure everyone against. Although I have the eyes of an expert therapist, sometimes when something strikes my perceptions as not right, it may be my perceptions that need to be changed.

A good lesson, that one. Nancy and I had a fine laugh over it, and our sessions became a little more relaxed.