Exercise: Cast Your Hook

Your book’s hook is the free prize inside, the fortune in the cookie, the little extra sparkle people remember and remark upon. It signals the emotional roller coaster you’ve built into the project. That’s what they’re buying, and that’s what they’re talking about when they finish reading it.

A literal hook has three parts: the straight metal, the smooth curve, and the sharp point. A project hook includes:

  • a solid base that honors reader assumptions and genre tropes, which places the project in context for the right audience.
    • What is familiar? How will you honor tradition and meet expectations?
  •  a smooth bend that “curves” generic assumptions with a surprise, a twist, a piercing irony.
    • What is unique? How will you twist tropes and exceed expectations?
  • a sharp point that punctures boredom and sticks in the mind.
    • How do the unique and familiar elements intersect and refine each other?

You can draw in the punters with slamming cover art, celebrity endorsements, and a promise of wit, wealth, and weight loss, but without a hook that’ll hold them that bait is worthless. Your hook is how your editor, marketing rep, publisher, vendor, and fans will help expand your audience. Give them the right tool for the job.

With all that in mind, forge a clear picture of your book's hook:

  • What is the base? How does your book earn its spot on the genre shelf? List three details that situate it squarely with the best of your genre.
  • What is the bend? What fresh or fascinating reversal of expectation does it offer? List three cool, unexpected twists that make your book unique.
  • What is the point? How does your book push the margins of the genre? List three ways your book represents a step in the genre’s evolution.

Looking at these details write one short sentence with no more than one comma and one conjunction that summarizes what makes your book essential for your read.

© 2016 Damon Suede & Heidi Cullinan, All Rights Reserved

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