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  
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