I've been doing workshops about this recently and much fun has been had. By me, anyway. And we had much fun on my blog recently, pitching in - see what I did there? - and helping each other hone our pithy pitches and sharpen our hooky hooks. There were 117 comments, which was somewhat hard to keep up with.
So I have an activity for all you writers AND all you readers. Can you pitch either your book or a book you've read in a maximum of 25 words? That way, not only can you sharpen your hook (if you're a writer) but you can also encourage others to buy either your book or a book you love. And it's not a million days to Christmas and people want ideas, so...
Some tips, first, for those who haven't done this before. The best hooks generally have the following elements:
- Concrete phrases and strong images, not vague ones. Eg, not "about survival" but "about surviving shipwreck on a small boat with a ravenous tiger and a dying zebra."
- A main character who is described not by name but by what he is and what drives him. Eg, not "Bob", but "football-obsessed teenager".
- The conflict, obstacle and stakes - bigged up to their most enormous possible bigginess.
- Wolves. Or, if wolves are not possible, any of the following emotional drivers: war; murder (or other tragic or violent death); lust; obsession; fear; blood; human sacrifice; slavery; fierce animals with some kind of nobility (such as wolves, obviously, or lions, tigers etc; actually tigers are especially good) - stoats tend not to work so well; torture; snakes (the only exception to the nobility rule); gods and religion in general, though never in a good way; plague; torture; tulips; motherhood; rejection; champagne; incredibly pointy mountains; incredibly dark caves; flying (without aeroplanes); luxury chocolate; shipwreck; orchids; terrorism; nuclear war; very severe and definitely apocalytpic climate change - a bad summer isn't enough. You get the picture.
If you'd like my patent method, though many of you won't need it, as you're experts:1. Choose an epithet for your main character - eg abandoned orphan (especially if adopted by wolves), vengeful divorcée, underpaid writer, redundant vampire...
2. Brainstorm for five minutes, writing down every word or phrase you can think of that your book conjures up, including episodes, themes, adjectives, emotions, aspects of the main character.
3. Select the 15 most compelling of those. (Not truest - most compelling.)
4. Select the 5 most compelling of those.
5. Make sure they all feature in some form in your 25-word pitch.
6. Hone, hone, hone, sharpen, sharpen, sharpen.
So, how would you pitch us your book or a book you love?