The Hook

I gravitate toward the long form. When people ask me where I’m from, I ask them if they want the short story (I was born in California) or the long story (I didn’t grow up there). I find the long story to be much more informative and entertaining. I stink at short stories and am amazed at the skill of those who can pull them off.

Gypsy Spy is an epic espionage thriller composed of three novel-sized acts. I didn’t set out chasing a word length, I simply wanted to tell the story. When it was done, I was left with a work that was destined for independent publishing as the traditional market wouldn’t touch my word count with a ten-foot pole. It could certainly be cut back a bit—after all, what work couldn’t use a little more editing—but to get it to traditional length would require as substantial loss of story or the breaking apart of the acts. Neither option was attractive to me.

I recently attended a prominent writer’s conference. One of the greatest opportunities offered at serious writer’s conferences is the chance to actually pitch your work to agents and editors. Traditionally published and independent authors both have to pitch and market their work if they have any hope of ever selling a book. The difference between them is that the independent doesn’t have to go through the entire process of putting a proposal together, sending out query letters, and having a one-sheet. Frankly, until I was preparing for the conference, I had never heard about a one-sheet.

Think of the one-sheet as the resume for yourself and the work you are presenting, the short story version of who you are and what you wrote. As if boiling down your life and art to a one page synopsis wasn’t daunting enough, experts suggest that it is essential for your one-sheet (and for your marketing efforts in general) to write a hook for your novel.

The hook for a novel is analogous to the tagline for a movie. It is meant to encapsulate the theme and essence of the story while at the same time drawing the reader in. Tagline’s are great, a bit of marketing genius that challenges even Twitter’s brevity. As brilliant as Alfred Hitchcock was, his star doesn’t outshine the cleverness of the ad men.

Psycho “Check in. Relax. Take a shower.”

The Birds “… the next scream you hear may be your own.”

Ridley Scott’s team took a riff from The Birds tagline to promote perhaps the most intense science fiction horror film of all time, Alien. “In space, no one can hear you scream.”

Taglines run the gambit from straight promotional (“greatest film ever”) to funny. The tagline for Shrek was “The greatest fairy tale never told.” A funny tagline for a hilarious movie. The movie The Men Who Stare at Goats was also funny, but in a different way. And unlike Shrek, it had a basis in actual government research programs. Even so, its tagline is classic humor: “No goats, no glory.”

Dramatic films have their taglines as well. The tagline for the film Momento is effective because of its intrinsic contradiction: “Some memories are best forgotten.” The tagline for The Prestige encapsulates the entire essence of the film: “Are you watching closely?” If you haven’t written a hook for your novel, I trust these examples from the movie industry have given you some good ideas.

When I was composing my one sheet, I had just come off an intense, near 12-hour shift at the day job to finalize my preparations for the conference—not the best circumstances for creativity. Writing a hook seemed an impossible task. How was I to take a 280,000 word novel and boil it down to a sentence? It took some doing, but by the grace of God I was able to get it done in six words.

“One orphaned Gypsy against two Superpowers.”

If you have a favorite tagline or have a hook for your novel, please share it in the comments.

Meme Monday – What Is a Story without Love?

I suppose some stories can be pure action or intrigue. Others are all about romance. I prefer to mix it up. Love and fear are two prime motivators. A fear story without love would be horror. A love story with no fear or risk would be pure syrup. All love has risk. The greater the love, the bigger the risk, the better the story.

You can find Gypsy Spy high-stakes love here.

 

Meme Monday – Plotting

I have been wrestling for weeks over a particular plot point in Valley of Wolves, the next Gypsy Spy novel. Finally, after much contemplation, it fell into place and subsequently provided support for other parts of the intended narrative. I was excited enough to do a little celebration jig and build a meme on the experience.

While Valley of Wolves is under construction, dive into the Gypsy Spy epic here.

Meme Monday – Story Stacking

Toothpick Meme

Far from perfect but loaded with fun, this image had to be built because I couldn’t find its central component on any stock image site. Inspired from a scene in the novel, which you can read here, it required stacking up round toothpicks. The tower fell numerous times during assembly.

Building the final image in Photoshop was also challenging. Consisting of ten different layers and various effects, it took me several hours to put together. Photoshop wizards could probably have done it in a fraction of the time, but they still would have had to build the tower. Have you ever tried stacking round toothpicks without using glue to keep them in place? No easy feat!

Gypsy Spy: The Cold War Files is available at Amazon.

Meme Monday – Movie Time!

Cinematic reading

This MPAA spoof trailer header only shows for four seconds on the YouTube novel trailer, which you can view here. A still frame gives the opportunity to actually read through it.

I have heard that sleep cycles (and interpersonal relationships) have been interrupted because of this novel. Read at your own risk!

Meme Monday – License to Edit

Gypsy 007

Let’s face it, all work needs editing even visual work. I used this concept a while back in the post “A Meme with no President.” Adobe Creative Cloud still challenges me, but I am getting more comfortable in it. The original meme was built using MS Publisher. This one I did in Photoshop. I think it’s better. Compare the two and let me know what you think.

Meme Monday – Cloak and Dagger

Cloak and Dagger Meme

Ever the catchphrase of espionage, cloak and dagger signify the two traditional functions of spies: subterfuge and sabotage. Assassination could be considered the ultimate sabotage. Carlos de Leon knows how to cloak, but he is a uniquely honed dagger. The novel is available on Amazon in Paperback and Kindle editions.

Below is a picture of the prized Office of Technical Services (OTS) “Spyman” statuette awarded to CIA officers for honorable services while assigned to OTS.

CIA Spyman

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