Wednesday 9 February 2011


Do you picture the in-box of the agent you are desperate to work with? E-queries stacked in arrival, chronological, order from ankle to somewhere round about the neck, or over?
I do.

Presuming the scan over the query letter has not highlighted any glaring grammatical errors, the beginning is the only chance to make a good impression.

A hook – a creative device that grabs someone’s attention – must be baited to attract attention: smoldering, moldering, wriggling desperately - bright, glittery or bouncy; this opening line is the only chance we’ve got.

If you played along with Nathan Bransford (tried to read every opening paragraph posted on his blog) you will have found, like I did, that your eyes glaze over, after five or six words, and you automatically move on.

Hooks? Steak and spices: everyone likes things cooked differently.

Gotta love Larry Brooks. I keep his advice uppermost in my mind when I attempt to bait my hook 

What is the conceptual hook/appeal of your story?

What is the theme(s) of your story?

How does your story open?  Is there an immediate hook? 
what is the hero doing in their life before the first plot point?
what stakes are established prior to the first plot point?
what is your character’s backstory?
what inner demons show up here that will come to bear on the hero later in the story?
what is foreshadowed prior to the first plot point? 

Good luck to everyone who has entered Brenda Drake's Dark and Stormy Night Blogfest and Competition. Thanks to Weronika Janczuk (Veronica,) a Literary Agnet from D4EO Literary who will be offering critiques. 


  1. Great post Elaine! Good questions to keep in mind. :)

  2. I've struggled with my hook for a long time, because it's so much pressure, but Elana Johnson's book made me feel better. It doesn't have to be witty, snarky, brilliant. It just need to tell the agent what the story is about.

  3. I have learned a lot from Larry Post about hooks, story structure, etc, and I like your premise here that the hook is the only thing you've got. With the reader too, because many people will read the first few pages of a book and put it down if they don't get hooked.

  4. Good tips to keep in mind for when I have to start querying.


  5. Excellent post and I agree with you 100%. It's not like we have pages to convince an agent, we have one and it better be a good one:)

  6. Hi Summer
    They are the key questions. Good for unlocking the reader ;)

    Hi Patti
    Creating the hook is a weight when you know you have five words to persuade an agent to read five pages.

    Hi Karen
    There is a lot of advice in bite-sized pieces on Larry's pages.

    Hi Misha
    :D The time for the questions is about two weeks before you write the first words in earnest.

    Hi Lindsay
    You are an optimist ;)

  7. So much pressure on our poor openings. ;) Important points to remember. Great post!

  8. Hi Abby
    Ain't that the truth :D The pressure; not the post, obviously ;)

  9. The hook will get your foot in the door and it is really important. GP!

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